The Man on the Burning Tightrope

This follow-up to Firewater’s brilliant 2001 CD, Psychopharmacology, takes that disc a step up with the addition of European circus jazz. It’s no wonder; the New York-based quartet has been spending a lot of time touring the old country. Frontman Tod Ashley proves that, with the proper outlets, people suffering from mental illness can be productive members of society. He shamelessly wears his bipolar condition like a sandwich board at a busy intersection. Such painfully sad songs as “The Truth Hurts” and “Secret” explain Ashley’s solution to life, which is that anyone who has learned to embrace bipolar disorder can find comfort and triumph in it. With picture-perfect production and clockwork performance, The Man on the Burning Tightrope works better than Paxil and marijuana to cure mental doldrums.