Garage rock bands are important to any citys musical atmosphere, and so the local fellows in Escanaba Firing Line are filling an important role in this areas artistic front. The ability to strip down rock and rolls pomposity and leave at its raw and guttural roots is almost like a cleansing act: one that is vital to the creative energy that a music scene thrives on. I believe that a band like EFL and its peers can fill that role in this area.
The sound of Northern Michigans Escanaba Firing Line is difficult to pin down. Many different types of underground rock are readily apparent in EFLs latest release, entitled Speak and Destroy. The band is equal parts punk and garage rock, with a touch of indie rock and hardcore thrown in. The guys deserve a pat on the back for blending these styles in a pretty seamless fashion. They have created a pretty cohesive effort, which is needless to say, difficult, but even more so for a young band.
Two of the stronger tracks on the album are Terra Incognito and Moderate Rock Tempo. Both have great guitar riffs and a tempo that fits well with the music, while there are some catchy pseudo-sing-a-long parts that make you want to bark with the band.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear a live track at the end of the disc called False Start. Once again there is some great guitar work and there is also an attempt at a hooky section to the song. Even though there are some barky hardcore vocals, there is still some great potential for hooks in this music. This song is another of the stronger ones on the album, but unfortunately it was recorded live and a lot of it is lost in the midst of not being able to hear much of what is going on. It should have been given more focus and recorded in the studio. It also loses direction toward the end and does not demand attention anymore, which is a fault at a couple of different points in the album. Listener focus has to be maintained continually.
Production work on this album is not too bad at all. The levels are mixed right so that every instrument can be heard well, but at the same time there is still a raw, sort of stripped down nature to the music. The band goes along and it seems that there is only a thin thread holding them all together, which should be one of the trademarks of a band that can play this kind of music well. Nothing ever falls apart, but it just shakes in place.
The listener expects everything to kind of disintegrate into mass chaos but it never happens, similar to the way a band like Fugazi might present a record.
With that said though, the sound of Speak and Destroy is of a band that is still trying to find its sound. The realm of experimental garagerock is still fairly untapped, which might not be a bad thing, and it seems that EFL may have strayed a little too far into it.
Some of these songs are just too self-indulgent. Really long jam sessions are fine for bands like Shiner, Puller, the Grateful Dead or the String Cheese Incident, but EFL should stick to what they seem to do well, which is cool garage/punk/hardcore. At the same time though, I hear a potential to be something like Northern Michigans answer to the Stooges in this band, without all the pretensions that came along with that band and its quirky front man.
Does anyone remember a band called Crash Rickshaw? EFL remind me of them. Sweet.
Outside of a handful of bands like the Hives or the White Stripes, not very many garage bands tend to write hooks in their music, but I can hear some pretty good ones on a couple of the EFL tracks. The Firing Line sound nothing like the aforementioned garage rock giants, which is great, and they should develop these hooks that can be heard on some of their songs, and implement more of them. The results could be really impressive.
This is a transition disc. It really is not the most earth-shattering thing to listen to, but it definitely has some great moments on it. With some stripped down song formats and some more streamlined writing, this band could be something really special. I would watch out for them and expect some really cool things from them in the future.