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4.0 out of 5 stars Fire!- You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago LP Review (6.5/10), 23 Nov. 2009
This review is from: You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago (Audio CD)
A question rarely asked of music - "What is the point?" - is rarely asked because the point of music invariably becomes self-evident within the first resonant note of a song. That's not to say that the appreciation of music can't occur on an intellectual as well as a visceral level, but for this to happen the listener usually has to be able to conceptualise a connection between what he/she/it is listening to and some facet of human experience.

For the life of me I can't do this with `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago,' the debut album from Swedish "psychedelic" jazz trio Fire! Featuring Mats Gustafsson of The Thing (and innumerable collaborations) on Saxophone, Johan Berthling of Tape on bass, and Andreas Werliin of Wildbirds and Peacedrums on drums, Fire! have announced their presence on the scene by delivering a teleologically baffling album that defies signification. This isn't so much of a problem with the first of the LP's four tracks, `If I took Your Hand,' which convulses by in a comparatively lean 7 minutes and features a wheezing, unhinged sax solo given force and momentum by an irresistibly solid groove. And neither is it a problem on the last of the four tracks, `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago,' which at an even leaner 4 minutes takes a mischievous sax riff and runs it through a ringer of sly modulations and rhythmic accelerations.

But it is something of a problem with the two pieces which fill out the bulk of the album. The first of these, `But Sometimes I Am,' begins promisingly, with an expertly measured and atmospheric intro of ponderous bass notes and delicate symbol patters which stealthily pick up the pace as the tortured sax of Gustafsson rises from its disturbed slumber. The band gain an engaging ardour that sounds fit to burst and then, after 7 and half minutes of tension, the impetus simply evaporates without any kind of crescendo, as a subdued electric organ chord provides a foundation for some equally subdued (and also inscrutably non-verbal) coquettish purrs, provided by guest vocalist Mariam Wallentin and the only vocals to appear on the album.

The track goes on for another ten minutes, and despite escalating somewhat in volume and speed and throwing some fuzzy, indistinct guitar into the mix towards the end it never really makes good on its enticing beginning, since what it does essentially is forget about this beginning altogether, not by doing something in complete contrast to it, but in fact by puzzlingly doing the same thing in a slightly different colour scheme.

Luckily the next track, `Can I Hold You For A Minute?,' keeps things reigned in at a relatively tighter 13 minutes. Now I say relatively, since 13 minutes isn't usually taken as a standard of concision, and the matter isn't really helped by the track's lack of focus and movement. This lack largely comes from what is otherwise a laudable attempt to move beyond the genre of jazz and do something that has been described as "psychedelic." What this psychedelia entails in this instance is a murky haze of repeating distorted guitar chords, atonal guitar sub-melodies, an incessantly sustained Hammond organ chord, and some intermittent saxophone wails, and the problem is that the band move so far out of jazz (i.e. what they're best at) that they end up simply sounding like Comets on Fire on a much less exciting off day. They keep the same wall of sound going constantly for the best part of ten minutes, and while at times it does sound suitably huge, its monotony soon loses the power to stimulate, begging the question of why they're still going on, and on.

Which is a question I still can't answer. Although I'm sure if I really wanted to I could contrive something about life being repetitive and monotonous, or about how LSD can induce a dissolute and entranced state of mind (not that I'm in any way convinced that the band were trying to make a psychedelic album), but then again these observations hardly need pointing out in a work of art. But more importantly, it doesn't really matter whether or not `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago' has a `message' or represents existence, what matters is whether or not it engages on a musical level, and for that question I can unreservedly say that it does, although nowhere near as consistently as you might have expected with the personnel involved. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Original Silence, The Thing, Tape, Gutbucket, Vandermark 5, Comets on Fire, Other Dimensions in Music
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