Fired, the fifth X-Legged Sally album, is a straight-ahead live set that displays the band at its blasting, scorching best. Fired was apparently intended as a final swan song before bandleader Peter Vermeersch closed the book on the group for good, although XLS managed to squeeze out one more CD (Bereft of a Blissful Union) before finally calling it quits. Nevertheless, Fired is a fine career retrospective, drawing some of the best material from The Land of the Giant Dwarfs, Killed by Charity, and opening salvo Slow-Up (as well as Pierre Vervloesem's Home Made), with everything cleanly recorded by Radio 1 for its Cucamonga program but still imbued with the energy of a particularly wild club date (in this case, at the Cactusclub in Bruges, Belgium). Along with Doctor Nerve, XLS was the hottest horn-driven outfit in '90s avant-prog, and Fired proves it. "Memphis" was almost a signature tune for the band, and perhaps the definitive version is here, suggesting Frank Zappa jamming with members of the Allman Brothers, P-Funk, and the Philip Glass Ensemble. Throughout the set, XLS navigates tricky stop-and-start rhythms, churns out flaming solos (Vermeersch's clarinet featured prominently) and twisted unison riffs, and splatters the mix with oddball synth and electronics. A cranked-up cover of Zappa's "City of Tiny Lites" is here, and Thierry Mondelaers' yowling vocals on this and a couple other tracks work better than on Giant Dwarfs. Although the music on Fired is tightly scored for the most part, there is still room for the front line to display plenty of improvising prowess, and new touches are added to many of the old tunes, making them far more than carbon copies of the original versions. A bit of new material is here as well, including the whimsical and cartoonish "Moe," an effective album closer. Fired is probably difficult to find, but well worth the search.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Lynch