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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.

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