Just a Fire – Spanish Time

Just a Fire
Spanish Time

I hate to say it, but Spanish Time disappointed me. The band does everything right, in some sense – it knows how to rock, it knows how to play tight and loud, and it probably connects with the kids in a live setting really well. But this CD doesn’t show a whole lot of personality.

Upon the first few listens, many of the tracks seemed interchangeable: by-the-numbers post-punk with often Braid-like vocals. The songs never lack energy, which I’m sure benefits the band at shows. In fact, the live setting probably brings out the best in this music and is probably the best way to experience it. But Spanish Time, as a studio document, has a hard time distinguishing it from so many of the other albums like it.

Two notable tracks, “The Sun is a Magnet” and “Finally Friday Night,” break from the routinized rock of Spanish Time, and I wish that Just a Fire had dropped a few more songs like them onto the album. “Finally Friday Night” has a Regulator Watts feel to it, but more energized. Its opening rhythm (comparatively slow and syncopated) and guitar lines (simple, high, spacious) are a respite from the constant, overdriven sounds of the other songs. Eventually the song picks up and gets into a Retisonic kind-of ending, but the real reason that the second half of this song works so well is that the first half provides such a contrast. By not being uniform in its volume and intensity, “Finally Friday Night” succceeds.

“The Sun is a Magnet” goes a step further than “Finally…,” introducing a real Ruts influence (and again recalling Regulator Watts). Its reggae rhythm, dubbish bass, and spare guitar notes might also make you remember how The Clash and Police would marry reggae and rock to achieve something that wasn’t quite either one but sounded great. These days, other newer bands like The Dead 60s have started to mix in reggae ideas, and I hope the trend continues. I, for one, would have welcomed more songs like “The Sun is a Magnet,” in all its Trenchmouth stylings, on Spanish Time.

So, I think the main disappointment for me was learning that the band consists of ex-members of Hoover and Sweep the Leg Johnny. Although perhaps it helps explain the roots of Just a Fire’s sound a little, this fact surprised me mostly because I know that these musicians can do great things. I’m just not sure that Spanish Time lives up to the band’s abilities and talents. I hope that Just a Fire records again and takes the chance to move away from the well-trod rock planks and shows us that they have more ideas than are evident on this CD.