Mike Watt's the kinda guy for whom terms like 'eclectic', 'unexpected', and 'curious' are coined. Columbia, on occasion of the Firehose reunion tour (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the spelling is properly 'fIREHOSE', but one gets a mite tired of all these Cummings-esque reversals, reverse-reversals, and re-reverse-reversals, y'know?), has issued the two out-of-print formal LPs and a shitload of other highly unlocatable materials and unreleased stuff. I've always been a big fan of that kind of exercise, whether in single discs, doubles, or box sets, so my interest was inmmediately piqued. If you're familiar with the very well received Columbia Legacy reprint projects, you already know what a great thing these ventures can be.
Firehouse was a trio that knew how to arrange itself for maximum effect, not like the overamped, overhyped, and overdone Husker Du, for instance, but very much in line with what mainman Watt would continue to exhibit for a long time after the band's collapse and right up to this very minute, still as active, rambunctious, and mercurial as ever. One of the reasons the band was so acclaimed arrived through its quite arty arrangements paying a good deal more attention to format than the usual chartrocking ensemble belaboring the back and forth between statically alternating expositions and refrains…with stamp-pressed middle eight solo, of course. This anthology shows the break with that in spades, aligning with such bands as Tin Huey, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Pere Ubu, and so on.
Unlike too many punkers, Watt has always been a musician and artist, not a yattering yob in high school rebel mode, and his confreres Ed Crawford (guitar) and George Hurley (drums) fell in straight behind that ethos, Crawford particularly interesting for his preference to remain in a basically undistorted electric baseline while coming up with no end of permutations, more than once calling to mind cats like Pete Townshend, whose chord choices and leads, before going flat with Face Dances, were historically intelligent and delectable. And, hey, when was the last time you heard Blue Oyster covered? Firehose has their back here in a version of The Red and the Black, kind of a Dictatorsy rave-up of the classic.
For the longest time, Legacy reissues have concentrated on what's otherwise called Classic Rock (a.k.a. Baby Boomer rock) as well as some unbelievably righteous attentions to Miles Davis' landmark works and such, and it's past time the post-Boom crowd got its due. lowFLOWS reveals just how attentively the label can wield its decision-making process, so if you've even the faintest interest in the band, this is the definitive output.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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