We Start Fires - We Start Fires
Holly Cruise 20/10/2007
Girls in indie bands have probably done more in the last couple of years to break the mould of being a token presence on bass or keyboards than has been managed since the halcyon days of Elastica, Lush and Echobelly when girls with all sorts of instruments (and their token boys on drums) threatened to make some inroads into the musical landscape in a meaningful way. Unfortunately as Britpop collapsed so did this momentum. Sleeper-blokes became the norm - talented female singers backed by identikit male drones (a la Catatonia, Texas and, um, Sleeper). This isn't to indulge in a feminist rant. It's just nice to see and hear some decent girl driven bands. Look at how much more fun CSS are than most other 'nu rave' bands. Or how much more infuriatingly scenster New Young Pony Club are. It's not always positive, but dammit it's interesting. So who's for a bit of crunchy female driven indie like Justine Frischman and co used to churn out for fun? Apparently We Start Fires are.
A background as the last new band the legend that is John Peel liked, has served WSF well in getting them some attention. Some. Not much and not enough if this, slightly delayed, debut album is anything to go by. Just as Elastica made music which was great and fitted the mentality of the era without really sounding like their contemporaries so WSF don't really sound like their contemporaries, but they do sound like something we need.
Kicking off at 110mph with Play You is a good tactic. It sounds urgent but playful. Arch but not irritating vocals abound (pay attention NYPC) and there's a lot to be said for the harmonies on display. There's no great shakes in the playing but that's not the point. It's essentially a fun pop song, played with fuzziness and a grin. Just like the other eleven songs on the album. Synths rattle along haphazardly, guitars roar and Becki Stefani purrs, yelps and enunciates beautifully. It won't win any awards at all for innovation, but frankly we don't always need to be impressed by what we hear to enjoy it.
At times We Start Fires (the album) is prone to lapsing into slightly unmemorable territory, and the second half lags a bit compared to the first. For such a short album after such a long wait this is a little disappointing. It also distracts and detracts a bit from the last couple of tracks, especially Lullabies, which show a different, softer, side to the band. Still, the highlights are pretty damn high. Let's Get Our Hands Dirty is exactly the sort of sophisticated smut we need more of, a counter balance to CSS's in-your-face filth… at least until the shouty chorus cuts away any hint of self importance which might threaten proceedings. Hipshake is also enjoyably upfront, and would be a floorfiller at the indie disco in an alternate universe in which Peel was still alive and playing these songs at the wrong speed.
It will set no fires in the mainstream and will change nothing but it is all good fun, and hopefully We Start Fires will keep their heads afloat. They have potential, and it would be depressing to see such unashamed rollicking fun go to waste.