Fire Engines, Codex Teenage Premonition

David Stubbs

By David Stubbs

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Formed in 1980, Edinburgh's Fire Engines were an unsung prototype for Franz Ferdinand. They were famous for their 15 minute "jigs" (they despised the word "gig" as "too rockist") and their best-known song was "Candyskin," which, perversely, they fail to include on this 2005 retrospective — they probably considered it too refined. Instead, Codex Teenage Premonition is a blistering, rowdy mix of early demos and singles like "Get Up and Use Me," coupled with a handful of live tracks.

Short sharp shocks from Franz Ferdinand’s Scottish forefathers.

Taking their cue as much from Captain Beefheart as punk, particularly the zigzag wanderings of Magic Band guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo, Fire Engines 'mission was to get back to the sheer, adrenaline-fueled, abrasive essence of rock, as evinced on the runaway rockabilly of "Insert Yourself" or the tumbling excess of "Everything's Roses," in which guitarist-vocalist Davey Henderson and Murray Slade practically leapfrog each other as their guitars spill higher and higher. Fire Engines burned out too soon — that, after all, was what rock was supposed to do.