Fire Engines - Hungry Beat (1980 - 81)

The Fire Engines managed a mere three singles and one mini-album before dissolving in late 1981, yet they remain a hugely seminal band. As austere as any post-punk combo, this Edinburgh four-piece specialised in surreally frenetic live gigs that rarely stretched beyond 15 minutes and were an acknowledged major influence on the Jesus & Mary Chain. Although they took their name from a 13th Floor Elevators song the Fire Engines were never about psychedelia. This spirited grab-bag of a better-late-than-never greatest hits set confirms them as musical contemporaries and soulmates of fellow Scots Orange Juice and Josef K; an amateurish and engaging mix of propulsive punk, spindly funk and gentle adolescent poetry. Their sole album, 1981’s Lubricate Your Living Room (Background Music For Action People!) was so defiantly anti-commercial that it arrived wrapped in a plastic carrier bag, and at times the Fire Engines seemed to be nothing but rough edges. Nearly thirty years on, scratchy, itchy song-bursts like "Candyskin" and "Meat Whiplash" still sound like first-take demos: the “production,” if the term even applies, is so rudimentary that it scarcely exists. This was part of the appeal, of course. Despite their terminal non-musical cack-handedness, there was a sweet alchemy to even the Fire Engines’ rawest machinations. The attitudinal white-boy funk of "Big Gold Dream" remains a visceral rush despite the limitations of nasal singer Davie Henderson, and it makes total sense that the abrasive, Fall-like "Get Up and Use Me" is regularly covered by current Fire Engines devotees Franz Ferdinand. Talking Heads’ first ever CBGB’s soundcheck must have sounded something like this. Hungry Beat is a period piece, sure, but it's a fascinating and a rewarding one.


decrepittapes said...

Anonymous said...

You know, this is still commercially available from my friend's label, Acute, as well as through iTunes, I think....You've great taste, though.

Unknown said...

Please remove the sendspace link.

Acute Records