Just a Fire | Spanish Time (Sickroom)

With Spanish Fire, Just a Fire has made a mighty leap forward in every aspect. This record could have come out earlier, but in a twist of good fate, it didn’t.

To escape a musical legacy can be a rather difficult task. Once you’ve played in Band A, B, and C, fans are not likely to take an immediate candle to Band D if you go in a totally different direction. Thus was quandary Fred Erskine faced with the formation of Just a Fire. In his earlier days, Erskine played bass for the seminal post-punk/math rock outfits Hoover, the Crownhate Ruin, and June of 44. Just a Fire does not resemble those groups in the slightest. Faced with fan expectations because of his past, Erskine—plus guitarist Chris Daly (ex–Sweep the Leg Johnny), and drummer Scott Adamson—faced a rather difficult task. Unfortunately, those quality standards were not met. Mincing no words, Just a Fire’s 2003 debut LP Light Up stunk on ice. To make things worse, JAF’s rather sub-par live show didn’t help matters, either. At that point, Just a Fire was left for dead, at least in my book.

With Spanish Fire, Just a Fire has made a mighty leap forward in every aspect. This record could have come out earlier, but in a twist of good fate, it didn’t. After the core of the material on this record had been written, JAF simply could not find the time to put their new tunes to tape. This meticulous approach soon turned out to be the best thing the band could have done. As time passed, the songs were improved and some of the original batch was tossed out completely. After adding some new songs, JAF headed to the studio.

Mixed and recorded by J. Robbins, Spanish Time shows that their debut LP was an aberration, a sophomore slump that forgot that it was a freshman. With “Sidebet” leading the disc out of the stable, the songs on Spanish Time are faster, harder, and much more livelier than those of their debut. Some of the credit can be directed to the always rock solid work of Robbins, but the lion share goes to Erskine and Co.

Throughout Spanish Fire, the most evident aspect of JAF is Erskine’s uncanny vocal resemblance to Sting. Musically, JAF has slight resemblances to Jawbox and the Constantines. Yet, for the large part, they throw their own take on post-punk and it’s a mighty good one. The guitar/bass interplay between Daly and Erskine is outstanding, and Adamson’s drumming isn’t too shabby, either. Standout tracks include “Spider Cop,” “My Baby Is Your Baby Too,” “Runaway,” and “Goat Dinner.” It is only in the slower number “The Sun Is a Magnet” that Spanish Time finds a snoozer.

So as it turns out, not only is Just a Fire alive, they are back and in tiptop form. Spanish Time is clear evidence of that. As for those aforementioned expectations, forget that Erskine was ever in June of 44. He and the rest of JAF have delivered the goods this time around.


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