17 June 2009
BIG FLAME : Rigour 1983-1986 (1996)
Arguably the most astonishing band on Ron Johnson's roster - though not necessarily my personal favourite (that'd be A Witness or The Shrubs) - Big Flame were, without a doubt, the label's "Outstanding Contribution to Music". John Peel absolutely adored them in their day, unsurprisingly - first impressions (i.e. the Sink! 7") suggested that they were a punked-up, pitched-up Beefheart tribute act - Trout Mask Replica at 78rpm, or something. Wrong. What Big Flame did have in common with Van Vliet's polarising masterpiece is the plethora of memorable riffs & brickbats simply itching to emerge from their torrent of scratchy chaos, providing you were prepared to invest a little heavy duty listening time. Big Flame were at the forefront of that other "C86" vanguard, the one that indolent (or merely uninformed) music journalists prefer to overlook these days - the jagged funk/punk squall of Bogshed, Mackenzies, early Age Of Chance, & the aforementioned Shrubs & A Witness (we weren't all sporting coy fringes & Anna Karina hair grips back then, y'know), all of whom have been written out of 1980s music history by Stalin-esque cuties like Bob Stanley & his beige ilk. Conspiracy!
Big Flame = three Mancunian Revolutionary Socialists miscreants (with guitars) - none of whom ever performed in George Michael's backing band, despite the rumours & backyard yatter - who "set out to change the world. After five 3-track 7"singles, fighting everyone and everything we called it a day at the Boardwalk Manchester in October 1986. But we did change the world, fullstop". In 1996, Drag City briefly compiled all of those 45s onto a single CD. That CD was up for sale on Amazon for £153.39 (splutters, drops Daily Mail, etc) at the time of writing. It's worth it. Big Flame, after all, were very good indeed.
N.B. They've got a website but it was phaffing about last time I visited. Tsk.