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Codex Teenage Premonition

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Album Review

In a bizarre turn of events, Fire Engines were more talked about than ever in 2005. Decades before the development, two very different bands — the Candyskins and Meat Whiplash — named themselves after separate sides of a Fire Engines single. Alan McGee's early Creation roster, home to Meat Whiplash, had Fire Engines aftershocks running all the way through it. Another early Creation band, the Jesus and Mary Chain, carried all the spirit of Fire Engines, from ramshackle arrangements to crowd-baiting 15-minute gigs. But all these things happened long before resources like the internet, popular bands like the heavily indebted Franz Ferdinand, and the rise of neo-post-punk. Despite being brought up with increasing frequency, Fire Engines' studio recordings, while gathered nearly in total on a 1992 compilation, were long out of print by 2005. Codex Teenage Premonition, based around early versions and live material, unlike the straightforward Scritti Politti and Orange Juice reissues that appeared earlier in the year, appeared instead. Whether intentional or not, the backwards move fits in perfectly with the band's evasive, unorthodox approach. A reissue of the band's officially released studio recordings would've made a lot more sense, but this gets the point across, and it's not as if the proper studio material is a night-and-day difference in execution and sound quality. The disc begins with five songs recorded in August, 1980, including both sides of the "Get Up and Use Me" single; two of the remaining three songs would be re-recorded for Lubricate Your Living Room. Nine following tracks come from a pair of audience-taped gigs that provide decent sound quality despite the circumstances. Vibrant versions of "Discord" and "Candyskin" come from a 1981 session for John Peel. And then, at the end, a reconvened Fire Engines delightfully stumble and stammer through Franz Ferdinand's "Jacqueline," sounding almost exactly like the band of old, as if leader Davey Henderson hadn't spent any time as, or with, Win or Nectarine No. 9. (The cover originated on a 2004 single featuring a Franz Ferdinand take on "Get Up and Use Me.") Needling, frantic, terse and lean, Fire Engines songs aren't much concerned with melody or anyone's idea of classic songwriting, but their sounds shoot straight up the spine, sending nervous energy through the body of the most relaxed listener. Scrappier than both Josef K and early Orange Juice (just two of the band's Scottish contemporaries), Fire Engines plowed through everything with a fearless, wired glee.


Formed: 1980 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s

While a product of the same Scottish post-punk movement that also gave rise to Orange Juice and Josef K, Fire Engines were far more abrasive and discordant than their pop revivalist brethren, forsaking melodies and hooks in favor of noise and fury. Fire Engines formed in Edinburgh in 1979; three of its founders -- singer/guitarist Davey Henderson, bassist Graham Main, and drummer Russel Burn -- were previously in the Dirty Reds. Rounded out by guitarist Murray Slade, the quartet took its name from...
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Codex Teenage Premonition, Fire Engines
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