Just a Fire

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Just a Fire is a Chicago-based trio cobbled together from the remains of such heavy-hitting alt-rockers as Sweep the Leg Johnny, Hoover, and Abilene. They wasted no time putting out their first album, and it's a very promising debut; at its worst it sprawls a bit too much (several of these good five-minute songs would have made great three-minute ones), but there's not a single track here that isn't worth hearing more than once. Although Just a Fire is neither a skacore nor a punk-reggae band, there are definite reggae influences in the basslines on "Graduation" (which is featured again in a dubwise version later in the program) and "Dog Bites Back" (which also features a backward, "Roxanne"-style guitar chop), and on the horn parts to "High on Illusion." But mostly, this sounds like a more experimental take on art-punk circa 1982 or so. Bassist Fred Erskine -- and this is meant in the nicest possible way -- is a really awful singer (listen to his hideous caterwauling on "Dog Bites Back"), but he makes his vocal limitations work well for him in much the same way that David Thomas and Larry Kirwan do: by simply yelling his way past them with infectious glee. The final product is both abrasive and strangely charming. Recommended.

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