Happy Fire Day (10th Anniversary Album Review)

I used to write album reviews when an album took my attention strongly enough. It’s been a while, so here’s a special one I never wrote, for a special event that just happened, today.

2005: My parent’s house.

I had moved home after a messy break up, and had packed my life into my old bedroom. I was doing things to take my mind off the lack of space, including begging my friends to give me suggestions of new music through which I could explore. It’s amazing the extra mental space you can get from a good album. After returning home from one particularly successful trawl, I was slowly working my way through the various genres I now possessed. An instant messenger window opens on my cramped desktop, demanding to know if I’d listened to a specific song yet? I must listen to that specific song. I replied that no I hadn’t, and was told once again, I must. So I queued it up, and was immediately struck by what I can only describe as an absurd disco/rock/Eurovision masterpiece. The lead singer was growling out absurd lyrics, with a seriousness that Beck has never bothered with, and an accent that could at best be described as “Vaguely European estate with English lessons via American TV”. The guitar line was tight, the syncopated drums pounding, the saxophone was wailing, and Jack White was- wait, is that Jack White?

Then he made me watch the video for the same song. And so I am going to do the same to you.

…approximately 3:41 minutes later…

By this point, you will feel a mixture of things. Confusion, yes. Amusement, most likely. At the far end of the spectrum, there may be Arousal. But you, aroused reader, you are the outlier. You are what makes my data set reflect people and not robots. I hold you in the highest regard, but I hold you whilst wearing gloves. It’s nothing personal. But I have digressed – this song challenged my preconceived notions of many things. One of them being disco – Another being stuffed animals. I’d never had much time for disco, but now I had undeniable proof that such a genre had untapped powers. Powers that could make anyone want to dance. Powers that could make an old lady sound like Jack White. So I listened to the rest of the album, quickly. Here is a blow-by-blow review. It’s fast, it’s furious, it does not contain any Paul Walker or Vin Diesel. You will thank me for this later.

“Dance Commander” – The album opens with the most paramilitary party song in existence. You will obey the Dance Commander – his orders are for FUN. And you will want to dance. Singer Dick Valentine has spoken about the deeper meaning behind this song, he said (and I quote)

“This song… is about absolutely nothing.”

“Electric Demons In Love” – I’ve gotta be honest, that deeper meaning ascribed to “Dance Commander” makes just as much sense here. A recital of a domestic situation powered by wine and chicken, and electric dancing. I think it’s about demons. In…love. (okay, I have no idea)
Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)” A theme has begun to coalesce by this point. The theme is twofold: the protagonists of the songs are greedy men wielding their power and authority for dubious means. And the word FIRE is used continuously. This one is mostly about the greedy men.
Danger! High Voltage” The disco-rock masterpiece that triggered my obsession, this song is an unapologetic symphony of syncopated surreal seduction. Don’t YOU want to know how they keep starting fires?
She’s White” A lovely, tragic tale of a broken relationship. And the fact that his new girl is white. Not really sure why there are no other defining features of the new girl. I can’t imagine it’s a play at the race card – that’s too easy. (And also not their M.O.) It’s more likely white as in “light, goodness”, like a yin-yang opposite to the ex, who is…well, seems to be controlling and evil. Memorable for the definition of being “white like the light, never like the night.” It’s an accurate definition of white.
I Invented The Night” Many people believe this song to be about a dark seduction, using the lure of fame and fortune before dumping her into a terrible, terrible life of porn/abuse. Dick Valentine has often prefaced it in his live shows with the following statement: “Here’s a love song about my cat. I love my cat.” Take from that what you will.
Improper Dancing” This song, THIS SONG is one of the most inventive ever. Whilst being autobiographical (whilst waiting to get into a club, Mr Valentine observed dancing. In the street), it includes what should now be the famous “STOP! – CONTINUE!” segment. On the album, this is a brilliantly executed pause mid-song, but when performed live this pause becomes a gateway to a segue into…anything. A cover track can fit in that recess, a number of songs can fit in that lull. AN ENTIRE SET HAS ONCE FALLEN INTO THAT FEAT OF MUSICAL ENGINEERING.
Gay Bar” I find it very hard to believe you’ve never heard this song. Is it homophobic? Or is it a political statement like so much of the internet believes? (to the point they draw “Gay Bar = GB = George Bush” parallel. Rubbish.) It’s two things: a song about a straight guy taking a girl to a gay bar, and it was inspired by a misheard Devo lyric: “It’s just a girl, just a girl you want” was thought to be “just a girl, just a girl in the gay bar” Valentine decided that song had to be written. Ta da.
Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)” The song about Gay Bars was censored as various mad people in bureaucracy thought it was about the Gulf War. This song is about a a club where the place is getting so out of control, it’s as hot as a nuclear war. Does this one get censored? No. But that’s probably because it was never sanctioned for radio.
Getting Into The Jam” Another of those dirty, greedy men stories. This evil, greedy man is putting on his evil, greedy moves. The dirty guitar and banshee-vocals exacerbate the evil greed. Excellent rhyming of car to bar, to bar, to car.
Vengeance And Fashion” It’s about a man who uses his money to show off and get whatever he wants. If he’s happy, everyone’s happy. And it has horns! One of the tracks previously released when the band were known as “The Wildbunch” (but released on a Dick Valentine solo project…confused? Should be)
I’m The Bomb” “And I suspect heavy gerrymandering at the singles bar” may be the smartest lyric ever hidden in a song. For all the political finger-pointing other songs get, this is the one which actually drops the required lingo.
“Synthesizer” The nicest, happiest song on the album. It’s a simple, smartly stated. How catchy and good is their synthesizer? It’s so good, it’s inevitable. You can trip, you can trip, you can trip…

The album has a reoccurring theme of the abuse of power, by people who really are not that powerful. It also has a theme of love songs, hidden behind ridiculous trappings. It also has a theme of the word “fire” appearing EVERYWHERE. It has such omnipresence, they figured it was the album name, simply because it was EVERYWHERE.

This album is one of eight. They are still going strong. This year will see them release “Mustang”, a promised return to the guitar-driven days of yore. (Days of late have been more electronic) They still write songs that make you want to dance, and other songs that make you want to laugh. Sometimes, you will laugh whilst dancing. Be careful with your diaphragm when that happens, the wrong dance pattern at such moments could lead to some serious discrepancies. 10 years ago this album was released, and yet I listen to it today and could be fooled into thinking it sprung fully-formed from Detroit just this morning. This morning, May 20th, 2013.

The album, end-to-end, is 38:05. It’s a brief, powerful experience that will alter your reality forever. You should look it up. It’s on Youtube, it’s on Spotify. And then, after witnessing it, you will want to buy it on iTunes. After ten years, it is worth you spent that time and money.

-n

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~ by nick on May 20, 2013.

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