Wednesday, March 23, 2005


fIREHOSE- Ragin’, Full On
fIREHOSE- Flyin’ The Flannel
fIREHOSE- Mr. Machinery Operator

fIREHOSE, like my beloved Minutemen, were introduced to me through Santa Cruz skateboard videos. I didn’t get a chance to see the ‘HOSE before they broke up, even though they were in the area maybe three or four times after I found out about ‘em- one of the biggest music-related regrets I have (the biggest, of course, being the time that I convereted 300+ CD’s to CaseLogic binders and threw away all my jewelboxes. Man, I bet this project wouldn’t even be through the letter ‘c’ if I hadn’t done that. [And yeah, I’ve considered doing the rest, but let’s just see where I’m at after the whole project is done- hell, after Jandek is done!])

I developed a fIREHOSE craving a few years back and re-constructed their collection on CD with the help of eBay (I had all the albums on tape originally.) Damn, do they ever hold up well. The Minutemen were always lumped into the punk category even though their stuff was a blend of punk, rock, folk, jazz and blues- there was just nowhere else to put ‘em, so unique was their sound. I feel the same way about fIREHOSE- they came after the Minutemen, but they sure as hell aren’t post-punk. Ed Crawford’s guitar work isn’t as blues-tinged as D. Boon’s- there’s a lot more treble and a lot less scales/solos, making for a much different feel. The songs have picked up in length, as well- if I had to average things out, I’d say the average ‘HOSE song comes in at a little under three minutes. So, a little bit more traditional, in terms of like verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus-chorus-peace. Hurley continues to hit his drums a lot- the Minutemen kinda demanded that he hit something sixteen times a second. He might have slowed down a fraction, but hey, four hits a second is still pretty insane, especially if yr. 35 years old and playing like 150+ shows a year. Damn!

Vocally, Crawford’s got this soaring, high voice that is limber and well-suited for his guitar work. Watt sings a lot more than he did on any of the Minutemen albums- maybe as much as forty percent on some of the records. He’s good- does that speak/sing (you know, his vocals are spung) that Lou Reed does, except Watt sounds way more gruff, haggard.

One of my favorite things about the band is that if you put all of their LP’s on shuffle (well, all of ‘em except for ‘Mr. Machinery Operator,’ the record when they fell off the cliff and abruptly started sucking with no warning or telegraphing,) a casual listener wouldn’t be able to place the stuff on any kind of continuum. The production on ‘Flyin’ The Flannel’ sounds a little bit better than the first three, the SST records, but that shouldn’t come as any surprise, as SST records tended to sound pretty muddy (and I say this even though I know that the ‘HOSE took care of all their recording, mastering and artwork from their own pockets.) Actual sonics aside, though, the band always had their own sound, but never confined themselves to playing any one kind of easily identifiable music- they always played fIREHOSE songs, for lack of a better way of putting it. I felt like ‘if’n’ was a little bit more pensive than the others, but there were still songs on that record that were as poppy or as rockin’ or as pretty as anything else the band put out.

(Shocking fIREHOSE revelation: ‘Riddle Of The Eighties,’ the first track on ‘fROMOHIO,’ starts with an acoustic bit that is pretty much a note-for-note theft/homage of ‘Jordan, Minnesota,’ the first track on Big Black’s ‘Atomizer,’ except with no distortion. Go back and compare for yourself- you’ll be surprised.)

As far as ‘Mr. Machinery Operator’ goes, the band was always pretty awesome in their album notes, noting how much time each part of the recording process took. ‘Operator’ took twice as long to finish as any of the others did- hell, the notes say that there were seventy hours of overdub alone- the ‘Ragin’ and ‘fROMOHIO’ albums each took lesstime! It’s entirely possible that the extra hours were to beef up the weakest songwriting of the five records, or maybe they wrote a lot of stuff in the studio. I listen to ‘Operator’ and hear lots of songs that don’t sound like fIREHOSE- big radio rock that sounds like a death knell. There are a bunch of songs that sound more in line with the rest of the catalogue, but the odd, huge-sounding stuff is interspersed with the songs that actually sound like the band. It’s a little weird. But you know how no one talks about ‘Cut The Crap’ when they comment critically on the Clash? You don’t hear a lot of discussion about ‘Mr. Machinery Operator.’ Hell, I’ve probably said too much already.


Blogger RichieTylerPollard said...

I think I've just decided to make March fIREHOSE month...

except for Mr. Machinery Operator...

7:48 AM  

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