4.20.2007

Diggin' in the (90s) - Jonathan Fire Eater

It was bound to happen. Once Magnet Magazine ran out of cover stories on the Decemberists, they would start scouring back issues to compile a list of "lost" classics that they claimed they "discovered" and introduced to the world since the publication's inception. Ok, fair enough. The latest issue is actually quite an enjoyable read, re-realizing the brilliance of Bardo Pond and Papas Fritas, giving them kudos for mentioning the Glands, Brainiac (jesus, what an amazing live band) and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, and kicking myself for selling off copies of Rollerskate Skinny and Quickspace long ago during those heady times. But I'm beginning to feel like Magnet is becoming the Alternative Press of the indie world. Do albums such as Neutral Milk's On Avery Island, Archers of Loaf's Icky Mettle, and Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break, really qualify as lost?

I was also a bit miffed by the exclusion of one the 90's real "lost" classics, Jonathan Fire Eater's sole album for Dreamworks, Wolf Songs for Lambs. While easily attainable through the internet, you'd be hard pressed to find this at your local Best Buy, or in your closest friend's music collection. I suppose my biggest issue with this album is the eventual ascent of the Walkmen, which is completely undeserved without mention of this brilliant little gem. Jonathan Fire Eater were the precursor to the NYC boom for bands like the Strokes and the French Kicks (sic!), and were basically the Walkmen with a more intriguing (and better) frontman. With the exception of maybe "We've Been Had" and "The Rat," the Walkman have never reached the dramatic and mysterious synergy found on songs like "Bipolar Summer" or "When the Curtain Calls for You." Stewart Lupton had a trust-fund snarl and a red-velvet swagger comparable to Greg Dulli on better ludes or Mick Jagger on higher education. Just check out that alliteration ("They spoon-fed their princes, cooked peaches and pears"). The guy writes Hamilton Leithauser under the table, with style for miles. While the details of Jonathan Fire Eater's dissolution and Lupton's disappearance are shady at best, the Walkmen have gone on to gain the notoriety that should be piled upon this album. Meanwhile Lupton has finally resurfaced as The Child Ballads (the sign of greater things to come?), and the Walkmen have gone on to murder the songs of Harry Nilsson and record the same album three consecutive times. (editor's note: I don't hate the Walkmen, really, I don't.)

3 comments:

chip said...

I love Jonathan Fire*Eater but have never been able to get into the Walkmen. I thought I was the only one.

electric pure land said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
electric pure land said...

best walkmen quote ever from bj tibbs was "why did they get the singer from james?"

ps -- i was happy about the inclusion of small factory's "for if you cannot.." as it is a lil bit forgotten... there is a video from this lp and i cant find it anywhere on the internet... which is about as forgotten as you can get these days...