Album Reviews

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – Blood And Fire

(Black) UK release date: 17 May 2010

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Blood And Fire Blood and Fire sees a surprise comeback for a band whose time many thought had long since come and gone.’ In the early noughties, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster were one of those bands – fiercely admired by the few, chiefly ignored by the many – whose music was perhaps more written about than listened to. Now they’re back with a newly completed record and a reinvigorated live act, after a six-year release hiatus in which a certain young gang of ghoulgoths, led by Faris Badwan, have sometimes been talked about as having stolen their thunder.

The first thing that is apparent is that age, a gap between recordings and a line-up change don’t seem to have calmed the band’s ire, for Blood And Fire is a predominantly dark and often angry album. Memorable single and album-opener Love Turns To Hate, the title of which speaks for itself, So Long Good Night, and the frenetic Monsieur Cutts are all seemingly driven by a fury that erupts in the music, the vocals and the lyrics. These are sometimes repetitious and a little hackneyed, like the couplet “The time has come to roll the dice / But in the end you pay the price” (Love Turns To Hate), but can also feature arresting imagery. Never Be The Same’s evocation of jaded excess – surely the album’s most personal lyric – is striking: “The smoke that fuels the end / The wine at death’s door / The pills that numb the pain”, and “Feet melt into the floor / I’ve done it all again / I’m cold”.

Death is a recurring theme, from the Nick Cave-alike murder ballad So Long Good Night to Riptin’s grim(m) fairytale of death in the woods and the above-quoted Never Be The Same. Only Man For All Seasons is lighter of mood, a nihilistic party anthem, with McKnight demanding “a party (…) a blitz” and telling us “I wanna fuck / I wanna run amok” in a manner equal parts exhilarating and alarming.

The vocal in which all this rage and angst is delivered is an instrument with impressive range and variety. At times the singing is almost a croon, like on the lustful Don’t Ask Me To Love You, yet later within the same song it mutates into a scream, a howl of distress. On Under My Chin and Monsieur Cutts the style is closer to thrash metal than anything, while I Hate The Blues, Man For All Seasons, Don’t Ask Me To Love You and Never Be The Same could all be placed on the spectrum from rockabilly to psychobilly to punk.

Is any of this groundbreaking or original? Well, not really. The simplicity of the song structures (Love Turns To Hate, So Long Good Night, Never Be The Same) and the echoes of other bands and musical styles dictate against that. But not every band and not every album needs to constantly push envelopes, particularly a band at this stage in their career. As a set of good bad times anthems that are as likely to have you tapping your feet as grinding your teeth in sympathetic fury, these pretty much do the trick, particularly if you are fortunate enough to catch one of their superlative live performances.

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