Hello=Fire: Hello=Fire

More cowbell!



Label: Schnitzel
US Release Date: 2010-11-23
UK Release Date: 2009-10-26

Dean Fertita, the guitarist and keyboard player for both Queens of the Stone Age and the Dead Weather, steps up to the mic for this latest project, which also features the backing of QOTSA members Michael Schuman (bass and vocals), Troy Van Leeuwen (bass) and Joey Castillo (drums). Van Leeuwen's own solo project, the utterly forgettable Sweethead, released its own eye-wateringly mediocre record in May 2010, so one might approach the project with some apprehension. As QOTSA spin-offs go, though, Hello=Fire, while hardly jaw-dropping, is a far more enjoyable outing in every way.

The album kicks off with a near-perfect trio of tunes. "Certain Circles" is a thumping rocker moored by a bouncing bass line overlaid with Fertita's sweet six-string-pulling and an array of guitar effects and synthesizer noodles. "Far From It" is the best song on the album, marrying moody keyboards to breathy, sly vocals, all overlaid a pulsating undertow that makes for an irresistible song. "She Gets Remote" is a straight-ahead power-pop anthem. More cowbell? You got it!

Fertita's singing doesn't have a great deal to make it stand out from any other mid-level rock 'n' roller; on the other hand, he usually, you know, hits the notes he's trying for. Also notable is the lack of extensive guitar soloing. There are plenty of sounds in the mix here, but they're generally worked in amid the verses and choruses. Solos are brief in some songs, and nonexistent in others.

After this opening trifecta, the band struggles. There are good songs to be had, but almost inevitably the fun dies down and a bit of rock-by-numbers creeps in. "Mirror Each Other" ups the tempo and the distortion, to not much effect, while mandatory ballad "Nature of Our Minds" fairly screams: "Look! Rocker dudes can be sensitive too!" Lyrics like "So I will see you when I see you / And I will tell you when I tell you" don't help things much.

Cowbell makes a much-appreciated return in the lively "She's Mine in Sorrow", while "Faint Notion" uses spiky guitars to good effect. About this time -- halfway through the record -- the listener realizes that keyboards and other incidental sounds are less in evidence than previously. This is a polite way of saying that the songs are all starting to sound the same. Generally, the back half of the album is weaker than the front, given a lack of standout tunes. By the same token, though, nothing really falls flat either. This is a good, competent rock album made by a set of good, competent rock musicians. "Someplace Spacious", "I Wanna Like You" and "They Wear Lightning" fit this description perfectly -- diverting enough to listen to, but eminently forgettable once they've ended.

Two exceptions to this are the short and punchy -- "Looking Daggers", bouyed by its frantically strummed acoustic guitars, and album closer "Parallel", with its mid-tempo groove, processed guitar tone and stoned-but-still-melodious vibe. "Parallel" fits nicely with the opening trio of strong songs, and it's a shame that the middle half of the album rarely rises above the level of decent, yet unmemorable riffage.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.