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29 November 2014

Fire Engines - 'Aufgeladen Und Bereit Fur Action Und Spass' (Fast Product America)

Here's a compilation containing most of the Lubricate Your Living Room record I just put back on the shelf, as well as a few extra tunes. It's bookended by the 'Candyskin'/'Meat Whiplash' 7", and 'Candyskin' is about as candied as the Fire Engines ever got, not just because of the melodic signing and relatively accessible lyrics but also due to the presence of a string section. It's a great, gorgeous meeting of orch-pop arrangements and post-punk snot, delivered with just the right amount of sarcasm. Listening to these songs right after just hearing them on the previous LP is actually fun. That's happened a few times throughout this project, with varying results, but this time I really notice a fidelity difference - how much better this pressing sounds than the Pop Aural one. I guess Fast Product America released this attempting to sell the Fire Engines to the American audiences, but I think the band was so short-lived that it barely mattered. Listening to 'Discord' twice in one night makes one really "get" the Fire Engines. And that's essentially all I can say here.

11 November 2014

Fire Engines - 'Lubricate Your Living Room' (Pop Aural)

This first record by the Fire Engines doesn't feel fully-formed, though that's maybe just because it's mostly instrumental. My other Fire Engines record (we'll get to this in a sec) has most of this one on it, and that pressing sounds slightly better than this earlier effort. It's funny to think of this happening in 1980 Edinburgh, which means it's possible these guys played shows with the Exploited. You couldn't get further away from Wattie & co. while still being rock music (well, I suppose you could); the monotony and tight rhythm section + jagged, sharp guitars sounds not unlike Gang of Four's blueprint, though I guess this was the blueprint for about 70% of British bands at the time. Fire Engines really excel at the long instrumental jams - 'Discord' is an epic, seemingly endless bashabout, and the two-part title track is a long-form exploration as well. They aren't unmelodic, though they prefer to focus on pounding guitar licks than pop hooks. The monotony has a fun, poppy flavour, unlike the Fall's nihilism or Flipper's drugged-out dirges. It's a statement of a new musical frontier - where the rhythmic concerns are of foremost importance and the traditional rock frontman recedes to the distance (though singer David Henderson can yelp like the best of them, when he bothers). I remember these guys doing a reunion show when I was living in Scotland, maybe 8-10 years ago, and I skipped it because it was in Edinburgh and expensive. I think they were actually opening up for a Beefheartless Magic Band, or maybe I'm just conflating two shows around the same time, neither of which I went to. Either way, it would make sense, as there's some real spiritual unity between Fire Engines and the Magic Band's most notorious efforts. The brutal, plodding 4/4 drums that rarely break for fills or flourishes anchor the guitars, but it's somehow spirited and uplifting. A sarnie and tomatoes makes a nice album cover, too.

10 November 2014

Fille Qui Mousse - 'Trixie Stapelton 291 - Se Taire Pour Une Femme Trop Belle' (Bichon)

I don't know anything about Fille Qui Mousse. This is something that appeared in my life around the time the early days of Internet filesharing opened up and you could start downloading all sorts of NWW-list items that you never thought would be heard. Napster, I think, or early Soulseek - it was before the Mutant Sounds blog, but the same online discovery time. Around then, a friend suggested I check out this album, and I did, and it hit the sweet spot, which is the more discordant, weird side of jammy 70's prog-fusion. It's French, obviously, and the 'Stapleton' in the title makes me really wonder about the Nurse With Wound connection, but I always liked it and therefore swept up the vinyl reissue when it appeared a few years ago. A few tracks on here and out-and-out sound experiments - the monotonous dronescape of 'Esplanade' which closes side 1 in a maddening fashion, or the tinny toy piano freakout of 'Transcription Interrompue'. Trixie Stapleton doesn't feel anything like a cohesive album, because cohesion was the enemy. This was outsider music, progressive without many chops, built around weird improvised bits and getting better the more fucked up it lurches. When it resembles rock music (which it actually does a few times), it's an album that sounds somewhere between Berrocal and a scrawny, withered Krautrock band. When it's looped electroacoustic weirdness, there's a primitivism that the French always do so well. The jazzy/fusion tendencies come through on the 'band' tracks like 'L'eau √Čtait Vitale', but it's not really meant to feel like a band album, I don't think it's a band at all. This was one mad artist's project and thus the other members came and went, which comes through in the recordings. Time has been kind to this record, though since it wasn't actually released until the 90s (though recorded in the early 70's, allegedly 70-72 which would make this very ahead of it's time, even for that scene) I suppose we've had less time with it.