fIREHOSE

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Ragin' Full-On

fIREHOSE - Ragin' Full-On ©1986 SST
1. Brave Captain
2. Under The Influence Of Meat Puppets
3. It Matters
4. Chemical Wire
5. Another Theory Shot To Shit
6. On Your Knees
7. Locked In
8. The Candle And The Flame
9. Choose Any Memory
10. Perfect Pairs
11. This...
12. Caroms
13. Relatin' Dudes To Jazz
14. Things Could Turn Around

After the tragic demise of the Minutemen due to the late 1985 death of D. Boon, surviving members Mike Watt and George Hurley were enticed to return to making music by Minutemen fan Ed Crawford (known as Ed fROMOHIO). Watt, still in the grieving stage, had considered putting up his bass for good without his best friend in life around any longer but thankfully Crawford encouraged the man to return to making music. As perhaps a testament to the inspiration even the memory of Boon provided, the debut fIREHOSE record is one of the best albums of the 80s.

Blending a mix between punk energy, jazz, folk and funk, Ragin' Full-On is not the blistering inferno the cover art suggests nor a replay of Minutemen's music. While elements of Watt and Hurley's previous band are obviously present, the new chemistry of the band is abundant and provides a clear focus for their music. Crawford in no way attempted to mimic D. Boon on either guitar or lead vocals, instead bringing to the table his own folk influenced style with squeaky clean high pitched vocals to boot. The result is an interplay between three highly skilled musicians that is inspiring, exciting, breezy and incredible. As with Double Nickels on the Dime, the guitar, bass and drums all inhabit their own separate spaces, often doing different things from one another, yet still somehow interlocking into creating a cohesive song. There is a sense of improvised moments here, yet the focus is still intact throughout. But the most enjoyable aspect of the album is the sense one gets that the three musicians are enjoying making music for the pure sake of creating something special. Nothing sounds forced and everything sounds like the men had the best time of their lives writing and recording the album.

If this album was meant as a tribute to D. Boon's life, you cannot ask for a more touching and perfect badge of honor. Ragin' Full-On is simply wonderful and enjoyable. Crawford, although not always the perfect fit for Watt and Hurley as time would show, should be given a medal for encouraging Watt to continue giving the world his music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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If'n

If'n ©1987 SST
1. Sometimes
2. Hear Me
3. Honey, Please
4. Backroads
5. From One Cums One
6. Making the Freeway
7. Anger
8. For the Singer of R.E.M.
9. Operation Solitaire
10. Windmilling
11. Me & You, Remembering
12. In Memory of Elizabeth Cotten
13. Soon
14. Thunder Child

To me, the first fIREHOSE record was a creative collision between the grief-stricken former members of the Minutemen and the enthusiasm of Ed Crawford, who coaxed Mike Watt and George Hurley back into the music making world following the tragic death of D. Boon. By the band's second album, If'n, the band had settled into a sense of familiarity, removing some of the exceptional musical tension of Ragin' Full-On. I should point out that in this paragraph, all the words used are in the most positive connotation possible. What made Ragin' Full-On work so well had moved into the past, presenting a more laid-back and breezy version of fIREHOSE.

This is not to say If'n is a disappointment. Some of the best fIREHOSE songs of all time appear here, including "Honey Please", "Making the Freeway", and the deadpan delivery of "For the Singer of R.E.M.". The trio seems like they had felt each other out (or, more accurately, Hurley and Watt were much more familiar with Crawford). As always, Hurley and Watt form such an impressive rhythm section. I have no doubt that in 1987, Crawford spent many hours playing his guitar in fIREHOSE thinking, "I'm the luckiest man alive to have these guys in my rhythm section." That's what I'd be thinking.

But unlike the Minutemen, who seemed to push musical envelopes simply by waking up in the morning, fIREHOSE began coming across like a very talented band writing good songs, but never come close to defying expectations. Remove the Minutemen comparison, and the band instantly is more impressive due to good songs and excellent musicianship.

Regardless of the inevitable Minutemen comparisons, If'n stands up as a rather fine record in its own right. I can't imagine there being any reason for a fan of Mike Watt's musical career to not have this album in their collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2010

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fROMOHIO

fIREHOSE - fROMOHIO ©1989 SST
1. Riddle Of The Eighties
2. In My Mind
3. Whisperin' While Hollerin'
4. Vastpool
5. Mas Cojones
6. What Gets Heard
7. Let The Drummer Have Some
8. Liberty For Our Friend
9. Time With You
10. If'n
11. Some Things
12. Understanding
13. ‘Nuf That Shit, George
14. The Softest Hammer

fIREHOSE is one of those bands that I certainly respect, and generally enjoy whenever they are on, but rarely find myself in the mood to actually listen to. To be sure, the songwriting is consistently decent to great, and aesthetically, they are pretty similar to one of my all-time favorite groups, The Minutemen (which makes sense, given to band's personnel). But nonetheless, fIREHOSE remains in my mind one of those bands that I like, and whose members I deeply respect, but ultimately is just sort of "there". Pleasant, at times great, but just…eh. I don't know. Maybe they just make me miss D.Boon too much?

fROMOHIO is a release that epitomizes my blasé feelings regarding this band. When the songs (such as "Riddle Of The Eighties", "Some Things", and "Understanding") are good in the wiry Creedence Clearwater Revival gone post-punk-while-remaining-punk kind of way that The Minutemen were best known for, the results are fine, down-to-earth rock and roll. Yet too many of these songs just, for whatever reason, don't seem to grab. Many border somewhere between folk rock and alternative, lacking the punch that Watt has been known to deliver before (and since) this album's release. Bear in mind, aside from a couple of filler tracks ("Let The Drummer Have Some" and "'Nuf That Shit, George" are nothing but drum solos, and "Mas Cajones" just sort of warbles and rambles about), it's difficult to really hate much of this music. At the same time, there isn't really a whole lot to get excited over, either. This album is worth picking up cheap for the few truly stand-out songs, but otherwise is hardly an essential release. If you are as much of a Mike Watt/Minuteman fan as I happen to be, you probably won't find yourself crushed by the quality of this disc, but you should be prepared to be underwhelmed. fROMOHIO is probably closer to a lame rollercoaster than a train wreck; yet while the former is certainly less bad than the latter, it is ultimately less memorable as well. As soon as I'm off of this album, it's already a mile away in my head as I start looking for something else.

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 02/2010

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Flyin' The Flannel

fIREHOSE - Flyin' The Flannel ©1991 Columbia
1. Down With The Bass
2. Up Finnegan's Ladder
3. Can't Believe
4. Walking The Cow
5. Flyin' The Flannel
6. Epoxy, For Example
7. O'er The Town Of Pedro
8. Too Long
9. The First Cuss
10. Anti-misogyny Maneuver
11. Toolin'
12. Song For Dave Alvin
13. Tienan Man Dream Again
14. Lost Colors
15. Towin' The Line
16. Losers, Boozers And Heroes

A lot of people have noted that while they could appreciate Mike Watt and George Hurley post-Minutemen band, fIREHOSE, it was somewhat difficult to really get into the band's music and specifically, Ed Crawford's trip. While the debut Ragin' Full On was absolutely a kick in the pants, subsequent efforts always seemed to find this band not quite reaching their potential.

Flyin' the Flannel, which found the band on Columbia Records, immediately reversed that trend. While still firmly planted in the fIREHOSE sound, the album came out blazing and full of unrestrained excitement and some of the best songs the band had put together since the debut. The music retained much of the similar feel of earlier albums, offered some neo-jazz passages, and of course the absolutely stellar rhythm section of Watt and Hurley. But most importantly, the songs here are memorable and lasting. From the mission statement of "Down With the Bass" to the contemplative "Losers, Boozers and Heroes" (co-written with longtime cover artist Raymond Pettibon), Flyin' the Flannel rarely lets up and only a couple of the sixteen songs are a bit of a bummer. Crawford sounds more comfortable with his folksy wail and vocals, which does allow for a better musical chemistry. While it can still be argued that Watt and Hurley came barrelling out of the demise of the Minutemen and simply bowled Crawford over, Flyin' the Flannel proved that he had a significant role in the band's sound.

Of the highlights, the title track, "O'er the Town of Pedro", "Up Finnegan's Ladder", "Toolin'", "Can't Believe" and "Too Long" are some of the better moments. Throughout the entire album, the trio shows precisely how impressive their talent is and that alone should impress most folks. Flyin' the Flannel, though a major label debut (though untainted entirely), is certainly one of the strongest fIREHOSE statements.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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Live Totem Pole Ep

fIREHOSE - Live Totem Pole Ep ©1992 Columbia
1. The Red And The Black
2. Sophisticated Bitch
3. Revolution (part Two)
4. Slack Motherfucker
5. What Gets Heard
6. Mannequin
7. Makin' The Freeway

Coming out of nowhere, this seven song live EP has to be one of the more interesting things fIREHOSE released in their time. Considering five of the seven songs are covers, Live Totem Pole already is an oddball. Then you realize exactly who the trio is covering: Butthole Surfers, Wire (which makes sense since Mike Watt has cited them time and time again as a huge influence on the development of the Minutemen, his original band), Blue Oyster Cult, Superchunk and of all bands, Public Enemy. And each songs comes off convincingly. "The Red and the Black"of course appeared here and there on old Minutemen records, but the fiery treatment here makes it the best version of them all. Wire's "Mannequin" is given a very honest and strong take, but then again Wire had an uncanny ability to write stirring guitar riffs in their Pink Flag days. The Public Enemy track, "Sophisticated Bitch", suffers a bit because Ed Crawford's high voice doesn't quite gel with the song at all. "Slack Motherfucker" also has a bit of an uncomfortable edge with Ed's voice. Overall, this EP is nothing more than just a little nod to bands that fIREHOSE admired and a fun little treat for the fans.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1999

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Mr. Machinery Operator

fIREHOSE - Mr. Machinery Operator ©1993 Columbia
1. Formal Introduction
2. Blaze
3. Herded Into Pools
4. Witness
5. Number Seven
6. Powerful Hankerin'
7. Rocket Sled/Fuel Tank
8. Quicksand
9. Disciples Of The 3-way
10. More Famous Quotes
11. Sincerely
12. Hell-hole
13. 4.29.92
14. The Cliffs Thrown Down

By the tail end of fIREHOSE's career, you could tell they were lacking spirited music and Mr. Machinery Operator was an indication of it. Songs like "Blaze", "Rocket Sled/Fuel Tank" and "Hell-hole" were still somewhat interesting for the trio, but a lot of it comes across as three guys playing on autopilot. The energy level was very similar to what you might expect a bar band to display and for this group, that wasn't acceptable. The difference Flyin' the Flannel and this one in terms of overall sonic power was immense. Watt broke up the trio sometime after this album's release.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/1999

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