Fire Engines 

Hungry Beat

There were many, many bands — on both sides of the Atlantic — in the 1976-1982 epoch (for younger readers, the first flowering of punk rock/new wave/indie rock) that blazed brightly 'n' briefly before disappearing. Some were more ahead of the curve than others, achieving "legendary" status despite releasing few recordings (sometimes only one album, EP, or single) during their existence. One such was Scottish outfit Fire Engines. Contemporaries of Josef K and Orange Juice, the group was around roughly two years (1979-1981) yet left a massive impression on the lucky few within earshot. (Franz Ferdinand and Primal Scream give them props.) Named after a 13th Floor Elevators song (bless 'em), Fire Engines played an aggressively sharp, angular style (analogous to Pavement, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu) with a strong dose of James Brown-style funk. The Engines could craft winsome, droll pop tunes ("Candyskin"), jittery mutant funk à la James Chance's Contortions ("Get Up and Use Me," "Discord"), and sound like Television playing West African guitar music ("Hungry Beat"). Davy Henderson's vocals exude ironic disdain (it was the end of the '70s and the beginning of the Reagan/Thatcher era) and one can often feel their wiry bass lines. Beat collects their proper output — don't miss the Fire Engines this time 'round.

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