Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Absolutely Essential Purchase For Record Store Day (UK) Is Firestation Towers (Fire Records) From Close Lobsters

Collected with a simple, singular sense of purpose, Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 (Fire Records) collects the 2 studio albums (1987's Foxheads Stalk This Land and 1989's Headache Rhetoric) and 1 singles compilation (2009's Forever Until Victory) from Scotland's Close Lobsters. To say that I love these albums is an understatement. Every time I play something from the Close Lobsters, I think: "Gee, that sounds even better now than it did 26 years ago!" The music here was never truly fully appreciated enough back then but now it seems as if there is a groundswell of awareness of just how flat-out great this band was. The band is finally getting the critical attention they always deserved and Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 is the perfect way to get all of their stuff (nearly) in one wonderful set. You want a crash course in Close Lobsters 101? Then this is it, kid!

I bought Foxheads Stalk This Land (1987) on cassette in very late 1987, before I got a CD player, when the band was being distributed by Enigma Records in the USA. I got some other Enigma things that same day -- Wednesday Week, maybe? -- but I bought the Lobsters' tape mainly 'cause I liked the song titles -- "I Kiss The Flowers in Bloom", what's not to love about that one? Luckily the music lived up to my mental hype. From the crackin' pop of "Just Too Bloody Stupid" to the glorious beauty unleashed on "A Prophecy", this was then a treasure of a record. The very sort of thing you had to talk about with the right people. If someone got certain other acts, then you'd ask if they knew this band. If they didn't, you'd spin "In Spite of These Times" and watch the person's face and, hopefully, they'd smile and nod. This album contains music I hold as dear as the tunes of The Go-Betweens and The Chills. Foxheads Stalk This Land remains a record that I rank higher the more I play it.

Headache Rhetoric dropped in 1989 and I can remember being a tiny bit disappointed with it at the time. Listening to it now it seems a lot better than I remembered. "Lovely Little Swan" is a magnificent single while "Knee Trembler" trades on the chiming pop of the first record to offer something more accessible and catchy. And the album contains one of the band's best tracks too ("Nature Thing").

The fantastic singles compilation Forever Until Victory saw release in 2009. It didn't get a lot of attention at the time -- I heard about it only after seeing something on Amazon.com -- but I think over time it did get more notice. It's a nearly perfect compilation that showcases yet another set of strengths of this band. "Going to Heaven to See If It Rains" is the textbook example of the glory of jangle rock, for lack of a better word. Far too robust to be twee this is the sort of song that still makes you long for the glory days of the late Eighties. Just a blast of pure fun. And then there are another 18 (!) songs to go on Forever Until Victory. This one's got "Let's Make Some Plans" on it and for that reason alone it's worth your money. What a transcendent song! Until I got this comp. in 2009, I probably hadn't heard this one in a good 20 years. I put it on and had to sit down and just enjoy the tune. It's just sublime, affecting, and tuneful. The only other band that made music like this then was The Chills. When I compare a band to The Chills, you know I must hold them in the very highest esteem.

The wonderfully titled "What is There to Smile About" follows and it rattles along mightily in the style of "Just Too Bloody Stupid" but with more wit and a bridge to die for. "In Spite of These Times" offers up guitars that sound like those on early Cocteau Twins records only here the hooks are sharp and direct and not all woozy-woozy. This is another masterpiece from Close Lobsters and the tune positively crackles with life. A catchy, should-have-been-a-hit anthem. "Don't let it slip through your hands!" goes the refrain. Don't let this slip away either.

Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 is 3 albums, all great, and you need this set now in your life. Your life will be better for owning these records. I promise you that.

Follow the Close Lobsters on their official Facebook page.

Get the full lowdown on Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 via Fire Records or the UK's Record Store Day page.