Posts Tagged ‘shelflife’

Stutter Steps, American Culture, Fireworks at Austin Town Hall

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Fireworks at Omaha Reader

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Fireworks at The Finest Kiss

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Fireworks at Buzzin Music

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Fireworks at Collapse Board

A major factor in keeping indiepop – genuinely underground guitar pop, as opposed to major label ‘indie’ – alive through the years and generations has been the fact that it is impossible to play convincingly without a hefty injection of energy and naïve enthusiasm, and that its simplicity allows for personalities to make the tropes their own.

In fact, these are the chemical elements that create the emotional adrenaline produced by the genre’s best exponents, a class into which The Fireworks have forced their way with jumble sale-elbows. The band is far from without precedent, as I’ve written before, and they play an intentionally and fiercely raw form of melodic ‘craft’ guitar music, with chromosomes dominated by the inherited genes of punk and C86.

Back to indiepop itself for a minute. There was an archness to the Buzzcocks and Ramones which was replaced in the more tuneful mid-1980s bands by sincerity, a sincerity which pissed the more cynical parts of the ‘alternative’ audience off, but which allowed subsequent bands to connect with a reduced but committed following which has remained loyal and sometimes creatively fertile through the years. The current indiepop crowd runs seamlessly from teenaged to middle-aged, much like its bands and much like the audience that follows 1960s garage and its revivalists.

Also like the garage bands, the music has evolved incrementally rather than in leaps, but a modern-day indiepop band sounds not-so-much like the first wave while still being instantly recognisable as genre-specific. ‘Pop’ here is used counter-intuitively as a signifier of a guitar classicism that has changed little since Subway Records shut up shop, and is defiantly subterranean in its existence and ambitions.

All of which is the circuitous route to telling you that you’ll probably know what you’re getting. But you’ll also get specifics to The Fireworks themselves, and they sound unique despite the obvious window dressings and influences. But from the action painted sleeve, the first and penultimate screeches of amped-up feedback, and the minimalist fuzzed-up arrangements, this is trad punk-pop, clearly influenced by the Shop Assistants/Flatmates axis of 80s indie, but is also audibly not those bands.

Pared down arrangements allow personality to cut through: Emma Hall’s earnest, double-tracked tunefulness is a step forward from the slightly more florid style she had in Pocketbooks, and distorted bass and fuzzed double-layered guitars have a thick, idiosyncratic tone.

The band know precisely the sound they want, and dish out a boom-crash-fuzz union of lurching minor keys and broken hearts and confusion, a bit like your own relationship with your significant other or desired one. Another punk connection is that, like Pete Shelley’s words (the clearest lyrical antecedent here), main songwriter Matthew Rimell’s lyrics are rendered almost genderless – though they are very occasionally directed at a man – by their simplicity and universalised by being sung by a female. They become emotional blank canvases by their lovesick punk titles: With My Heart, Took It All, Switch Me On, Back To You, In The Morning. These are classically teenage love concerns, the universal insecurities that we conceal as we descend into adulthood but that always stay with us. This approach boils relationships down almost to their chemical constituencies.

2013’s popper-rush of a single, ‘Runaround’, is matched by the melancholy post-hardcore harmonics of ‘Stay Here’, the only song on the album not written by Rimmel, but by ex-Wedding Present/Popguns drummer Shaun Charman (adding further genre cachet by his presence).

The overall unvarnished rawness emphasises the occasional shot of colour that surfaces, taking the form ofSpiral Scratch-level overdubs, occasional smears of reverb, the emergence of an acoustic guitar on the final coda song, a bare drum and bass intro, some three-note lead guitar fragments. ‘Let You Know’ has a touch of the Flying Nuns about it, while ‘Final Say’ atypically breaks the 3.19 minute-mark to allow for some prime destructo-guitar mangling.

Switch Me On prunes its genre almost back to the roots, a savage act that allows the resulting shoots to glow and grow. It’s hard to see where the band might go from here, but in its context, that’s not the point.


Shelflife at Fat Angel Sings

Shelflife Records is a Portland and San Francisco based record label run by Ed Mazzucco and Matthew Bice and has produced such bands as Burning Hearts, Days, Brittle Stars, and The Radio Dept. Shelflife traces its 1995 origins to a bedroom in a southern California suburb, where it began in conjunction with a mail order and distribution service. A fan of 80’s britpop and inspired by labels such as Factory and Sarah Records, Ed launched the label as a way to expose foreign indie pop groups to US audiences. Shelflife’s first release was the August 1996 compilation Whirl-Wheels which included tracks by Club 8, Boyracer, La Buena Vida, and Ed’s own band The Autocollants.In 1997 the mail order and distribution service were discontinued in order to devote more time to the growing roster of artists, a move that quickly propelled the label out of its hobby status. During the late 90’s Shelflife steadily gained recognition as twee pop and indie music became increasingly popular. From 1998 until 2001 the label hosted The September Set, an annual showcase of live pop music from bands on Shelflife Records  and other labels.

The Fireworks – “Runaround” released as 7″ single in November 2013, included on the debut album “Switch Me On”, released in vinyl, CD and digital formats on Shelflife Records LIFE117. Shelflife presents the second 7″ release from The Fireworks with “Runaround” b/w “With My Heart” and “Asleep” released today. Limited to 300 copies, the first 100 will be available on transparent red vinyl, exclusively on
In 2007 Ed and Matthew Bice relaunched the label with a new focus on blending art with music and a commitment to making every release worth collecting. With this came the launch of a new format, the 1000 series; a CD and a 7″ vinyl single are housed together in a limited edition gate-fold sleeve designed by an up-and-coming artist and packaged with free download of all mp3s at an ultra-high 320 kbps.

Close Lobsters. Emblems of the C86 generation and therefore pioneers of what we call indie, . The songs from “Kuntswerk in Spacetime” ep, published last year -the chorus to “Now Time” became one of the show’s highlights the video Directed by Mr Van Astra with Executive Producer Stewart McFadyen.


Fireworks at Performer Magazine

Cut to snow-white vinyl, the Fireworks’ debut LP, Switch Me On, is a masterstroke of noise, feedback, reverb, and 12-string jangle that’s basically the best Buzzcocks record the Buzzcocks never made. The band is an eclectic mix of UK vets (Pocketbooks, Big Pink Cake, The Popguns, etc) who’ve already released a couple of well-received 7-inch singles as well as a self-titled EP. But it’s their new full-length that should vault them to the next level.

The standout track is side one’s “Runaround,” a full-on onslaught of buzzsaw guitars complemented beautifully by melodic vocals and vintage pop harmonies. The punk-meets-Motown style is absolutely smashing — the juxtaposition of abrasive guitars and harmonious vocals recalls the best of the Pixies with a hint of Belle and Sebastian cheekiness. The addition of REM-style guitar lines for the last refrain is a nice touch of 80s college rock that doesn’t go unappreciated.

Look — the record rules, the band rules and we’re excited for the follow up already. Buy it now, it’s that simple.


Fireworks at Babysue

Thank God there are still bands on the planet who make music without giving a damn about hit singles and pleasing the mindless majority. The folks in The Fireworks previously released a couple of well-received singles, an EP, and a flexi. Now comes their debut full-length…and it’s a direct hit. The band is based in London and Brighton (UK) and is comprised of Emma Hall, Matthew Rimell, Isabel Albiol, and Shaun Charman. The press release that accompanied this disc compared the band’s music to other artists like Razorcuts, the Buzzcocks, and Bubblegum Splash. We can hear traces of all of these and more in these gritty rockin’ cuts. If you’re like us–and easily grow tired of digital perfection in music–Switch Me On may very well switch you on. These recordings have a nice raw sound with much more in common with cool underground bands from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s than groups in the twenty-first century. But the band is by no means going for a retro sound…they’re just playing like they mean it. We love the energy here. These folks create an overall sound that makes you want to move and groove their the music. Thirteen kickass cuts. Our initial favorites include “With My Heart,” “Switch Me On,” “On and On,” and “Final Say.” Rough, raw, rockin’ stuff that’ll grab you by the nuts and make you wanna totally ROCK OUT. Top pick.


Fireworks at Pop Lib

This thrilling sub-two-minute blast of fuzzed out feedback pop comes from London band The Fireworks from their “Switch Me On” album, released last month.

It could just as easily have come from Edinburgh label 53rd and 3rd in the late 80s, so perfectly does it recreate the energy and style of The Shop Assistants, even down to the perfect vocal style of Emma Hall.

Sure, this has familiar elements of C86 fuzz-pop and The Shop Assistants (“Let You Know” manages to combine everything by stealing the chords of the Shoppie’s “Somewhere in China” while sounding like Jasmine Minks or Stars of Heaven). But it also mixes in some Jesus And Mary Chain feedback and Buzzcocks style power-pop.

So it’s not exactly doing anything new, but it IS very good indeed and there were never enough songs of the quality of this album released in the 80s anyway. Good clean fuzzed-up fun.


Fireworks at Fingertips Music

A blistering, buzzy shot of punk-ish pop (or, perhaps, pop-ish punk), “Runaround” is a brazen reminder that digitalia only gets you so far in a world that still exists in three dimensions (so far). There’s a chunky permanence to the guitar-bass-drum attack of The Fireworks that renders the knob twiddling that dominates 21st-century pop music sound like a kind of quaint sideline. Music that does not depend upon physical vibrations of physical objects in the physical world is still music, of course, but that’s my ongoing point: there are different kinds of music, and engaging instances of all these different kinds can and must each be encouraged and celebrated, rather than one kind being dismissed as somehow “un-hip” while another kind experiences a bubble of over-production. Coming to a classic, melodic, three-chord headbanger from the vantage point of the year 2015, to my ears, automatically makes this new and different from whatever past bands you’d like to cite as progenitors of this style. (Me I hear a kind of Elastica-meets-Ramones vibe; what could be bad?)

The song’s simple, crowning achievement is the relentless downturn at the end of each verse line. Classic pop would often give us a downturn at the end of the first line, balanced by an upturn at the end of the second line. Here, the downturn at the end of the second line not only fools us by going down at all but goes down to kind of an off note (first heard at 0:18), surely not the note our ears were expecting. “Runaround” takes us three seven straight downturns (alternating four of the first kind and three of the second) before the last line of the verse becomes the beginning of the chorus, with the long-awaited upturn at the end of the word “Runaround.” Through it all, lead singer Emma Hall finds an effective middle ground between blasé and excited, letting the hugeness of the guitar sound swell her forward without giving her much pause. I always liked best the punks who weren’t too in love with their toughness; they were the ones to count on for melody. And still apparently are.

The Fireworks are a quartet from London. “Runaround” is the second track off the band’s debut album, Switch Me On, which was released last month on Shelflife Records. You can listen to it as well as buy it via Bandcamp.