Firehose: If'n (1987)

fIREHOSE (and, apologies to purists, I'm gonna go with a basic Firehose from here on out) rose from the remains of the legendary Minutemen following the tragic death of frontman D. Boon.  And as with a band like, say, Joy Division/New Order, where it initially seemed absurd for the band to carry on after the passing of such a distinctive leader, Firehose managed to not only not tarnish the reputation of the original band, but to continue to build on it.

The incomparable rhythm section of Mike Watt and George Hurley picked up singer/guitarist Ed Crawford, a Minutemen fan who reached out and sought to join them following Boon's passing.  Their first album, 1986's Ragin' Full On, was surprisingly decent, retaining the experimental, almost jazz-infused punk and post-punk of the prior band while injecting a little more of a jangly pop sound and dropping some of the political edge.

If'n continued in a similar vein, only with even better songwriting (though personally, I'd take about half of each album and combine them into a better whole).  The album opens with "Sometimes," a college radio-friendly pop tune, with a great guitar hook in the chorus; it's pretty damn nifty.  "Honey, Please" is an even more straightforward pop track, a bit of a retro rockabilly vibe and a sing-along chorus.  And the aptly-titled "For the Singer of R.E.M." is, as promised, another nice slice of mid-80s college radio jangle pop, with a rollicking bassline and just a hint of menace.  And "In Memory of Elizabeth Cotton" is a lovely little acoustic folk tune, surprisingly pretty and earnest.

Elsewhere there are more throwbacks to the Minutemen days, with Watt/Hurley asserting their impressive rhythmic chops.  "Hear Me" is staccato free jazz and coffee shop poetry; "Making the Freeway" is an uproariously bit of fun and nonsense.

Anyway, you can listen to this as the natural extension of the Minutemen's late-period moves towards commercial acceptability, or as an entirely separate college radio outfit that slots in nicely alongside other jangly guitar bands of the era but just happens to have an unusually creative rhythm section and experimental musical edge.

Here's an audio rip of "For the Singer of R.E.M.":
Here's a random video someone put together for "Sometimes":
...and a live take on "Honey Please" from a reunion gig a few years back:

Comments

  1. Was a little too young to have caught the Minutemen live but saw these guys several times in California while in HS and college. Always a very good show, and Mike Watt would always hang out to BS with us kids for awhile.

    I agree that their 1st few albums are pretty uneven. But I would put Sometimes in the top 10 indie songs of the 80s.

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    1. Yeah, "Sometimes" is pretty great. I saw them once, at Slim's in San Francisco, towards the end of their run. Like a lot of shows from a quarter century ago, my memory is a bit dim; but I do remember them playing "Herded Into Pools," one of the stand-out tracks from their later days, and being totally blown away; it's been one of my favorite songs ever since.

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