Flaming Fire - When The High Bell Rings

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Silly Bird Records
Catalog Number: SBCD11
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:06:00

Perhaps wrongly, but sometimes I feel obligated to review a CD "just because." Just because they sent it. And while sometimes means on that rare occasion, that rare occasion has arrived. You see, this disc has been awaiting some sort of comment for some time? it has not been stuck in my player or anything (no sirree bob) ? that's not my excuse? But since I had it on the "in rotation" list for long? I guess I'd better say something about it, eh?? At least as a warning to the unsuspecting. And this will happen in "real time," as I'll just let you inside my head. Please, don't rearrange the furniture while you're visiting.

The cover artwork of IQ's Are You Sitting Comfortably? came to mind just now? and the torture scene in a A Clockwork Orange, too. Keeping these in mind will hold you in good stead?

Alrighty then. When The High Bell Rings. I could write this review in one sentence: Sometimes mildly interesting instrumentally, it's otherwise a pile of? Yes, well, I think you know where I was going with that. But, let me tell you why I think that. You're obligated to read this just because I wrote it. Okay, you're not. But I've locked the doors and windows and so you're trapped here until the last period (so to speak). Remember: IQ, A Clockwork Orange?

It's weird -- this CD, that is -- and I think it's sort of meant to be. Maybe? God, I hope so. The artwork on the album cover does suggest someone who doesn't take themselves seriously even if they are serious about what they say. It's small away up there, but it's mostly hand drawn? um?interpretive? and not quite as interesting as Rick Ray's hand drawn interpretive cover artwork. But you know, that's the least of it. I've misplaced the press sheet (or note about the CD) for this, but I think the songs illustrate the Bible? and that's not my problem with it, either. At the very least, the liner notes state, "To help us illustrate every verse of the King James Bible, please visit flamingfire.com/bible.html." I thought I read something like that about the album, too.

No, problem is? Problems are? Okay, here were my initial thoughts when I first played it a long time ago: 1. Sounds like B52's ... on a bad day; a very bad day. So, you know, that's the "weird" aspect. You know how quirky the B52s are (were?). "Rock Lobster," "Love Shack," to mention their hits? But the B52's were likeable, and talented, at least in my opinion, and, at least, funny in their quirky way. This is not funny. At all. Except maybe in ways they didn't intend?? (Track playing, "High Bell")

2. This is not very good. No, let me clarify. The instrumentation is ok, at times better than ok (that's John Mathias on bass and keyboards; Jonathan "Jonny A" Ackerman on guitar and banjo; Leon Dewan and Brian Dewan on Dewanatron (?), percussion and organ) and Sarah Blust on drums (plus assorted guests). But, the production is muddy and distorted (perhaps deliberate?) It has a low budget 70s quality about it. The vocals are a mix of just-about-so-so and bad. Kate Humbrecht and Laruen Weinstein (lead female vox) fall into the "so-so" category? "so-so" verging on almost good. Patrick Humbrecht (lead male vox) probably shouldn't sing ? at least not as a "serious" endeavor. (Track playing: "Farmer Wolf")

As? "avant-garde" as Flaming Fire sound at times? Well, as an instrumental group, they might fall into the RIO crowd? maybe. Sort of. At least if the angles elbowed their way in. File under: Space rock psychedelia RIO Zuehl. This thought comes during "Astral Traveler," the third track in. I tell you what, they could be a 5th rate Magma at the ending minutes of this track - at best. But even if you aren't a Magma fan, you'd still rather hear Magma.

Oh dear? well, Magma are evoked again in "Dark Night" ? but at the three-minute mark, something resembling an attempt at Yes - at least vocally - emerges. Female vocals, but it's not so much tone as style and the lyrics? which I don't recall what they are now, but it was something mystically Andersonian. Though I looked at the lyrics printed in the booklet ? I think it was the lines "And everyone was nothing / And the nothing grew and grew / It swallowed all the things we loved / It swallowed me and you." Well, yes, Anderson would do something much, much, much better with that idea, so 10th rate Andersonian; to be completely honest.

Truly awful is "Satellite," in so many ways... I can't even begin to tell you. "10 Days"? could have been interesting? You see, I think their ambition is greater than their talent. "Fog Machine" is like cheerleaders let loose in the band room, thinking they're making fun of the "band geeks," when in fact the joke is on them. Give me an "S," give me an "H"? Most tolerable with vocals here. "Lemon Isis"? actually, other than the cheesy 70s feel-- Well? no, I almost said this was almost okay. But that moment passed. I think it would be better if I were, like, high, man. What if The Doors' "The End" were sung by "shiny happy people"? Happy because they were high as kite and didn't realize until their last moment that they were killing each other in brutal ways. The lyrics aren't in the booklet, but what I sort of make out sounds brutal. (Kate Pierson of the B52's guested on that REM track, dontcha know).

Are there any bright spots? You mean besides the ones flashing in my eyes right now from the migrane? Yes? two: the CD is only 53 minutes long and my CD player has a stop button. Well, three. Some of that instrumentation. "The Moon" ends this torture, I mean CD, with an instrumental. Sonic weirdness, that while isn't great, is better than most of this CD. Except for some flatulence at the 8-minute plus mark; queasy flatulence, actually, which is what this album will give you. Yes, best to end with that thought?

[And now you may go free? but I'll add just that they are a performance-art band from New York and this their third release.]

High Bell / Farmer Wolf / Astral Traveler / Dark Night / Satellite / The Stars That Burn / 10 Days / Shout / Fog Machine / Lemon Isis / Khar Shabi / The Moon

Patrick Hambrecht - sounds and vocals
Lauren Weinstein - vocals
Kate Hambrecht - vocals
John Mathias - bass, keyboards
Jonathan 'Jonny A' Ackerman - guitar, banjo
Leon Dewan - Dewanatron, percussion, organ
Brian Dewan - Dewanatron, percussion, organ
Sarah Blust - drums

Lou Underwood - keys (4)
Sheila McCarthy - drums, synths (3, 4, 5, 6)
Brian Wilson - drums (3, 4, 5, 6)
JZ Barrell - guitar (4)
Danny Tunick - vibraphone (9)
Tony Maimone - aux percussion (1, 2, 7, 9)
Zach Layton - keys (10)
Polly Watson, Julie Klausner, Jenny Gonzales, Abby Denson - Moon chanters (6)

Get Old And Die With Flaming Fire
Songs From The Shining Temple (2003)
When The High Bell Rings (2007)
Kentucky Shroud (2007)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: December 23rd 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.flamingfire.com
Hits: 1235
Language: english


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