Title - 'Single Shots - The Vinyl Suicide of Fàshiön'
Artist - Luke Skyscraper James
As you all know by now, Luke Skyscraper James is a guitarist in San Francisco, California. Having been a part of the UK band Fàshiön, the first incarnation from 1978 to 1980, he was part of the underground music of the late 1970s.
At the time the band was named Fàshiön Music and rode the wave of punk whilst it was making its last rounds in Britain. Releasing experimental post-punk rock and like-reggae/ska oriented songs, it was characterized by the presence of lead vocalist and guitarist Luke Sky (Luke Skyscraper James), who left in 1980, ending that first era of the band.
Having released several solo albums since then, he has now brought us the insanely-still-good, and redicovered Single Shots - The Vinyl Suicide of Fàshiön. And, as he himself told me recently, "Some of the tracks came from the 2-track studio mix tapes recently discovered literally under the stairs by producer Miki Cottrell's son Daniel (who is now in a band in B'ham himself called DB10). Other tracks are from cassette mixes of tracks we were recording for the second album when I did my vanishing act!"
The first track is 'Steady Eddie Steady,' the original 1978 version and wow, what a way to kick off any album of this ilk. Distorted just enough to allow the late '70s punk sensibilities to bleed through, its bounce and vibe showcase a talent before its time. Next is 'Killing Time' which together with the dub mix again not only ooze those late '70s vibes, but also incorporate early musical elements found in the later Fashion incarnation.
After the filler 'Citinite - Studio Mix #1' comes the brilliant raw punk-pop of 'Wastelife.' The track is energy-bound and skips along a SKA vibe like it owns it. The guitar-influenced 'The Innocent,' a US single A-side sounds more polished than what has come before. Crisper, well-rounded, everything musically in its place, with its vocals tight the song still manages to characterize the tonal vibe perfectly. The guitar funk of 'Red Green & Gold,' a US single B-side is another showcasing of a label-rounded song, but another track that brings SKA and punk together nicely, just the same. It leads into the vinyl crackles of 'Sodium Pentathol Negative,' a US single B-side and also the shortest cut on this just-discovered new album (1:49).
Rolling drums bring us 'Silver Blades,' a change in direction musically from what has gone before. More of an acoustic, fingerstyle guitar-playing new wave track, it is definitely a stand out. Followed by a Deeper Cut of the very same song, we then get another (although cleaner sounding) 'Steady Eddie Steady' (1979). Then comes a wonderful, truly great 'I Don't Take Drugs, I Don't Tell Lies' from 1978. But it's what follows that truly takes us back to a day, a time and a place within music. The raw 'Small People' from 1978, the second shortest track on the album (2:01) is a frantic guitar slash of a tour de force. Skywalker's vocal tone is pure seminal punk, the plucked guitar strings simply perfect.
The orchestral sounding, although all done on a basic synth 'Let Go' (from Bouncing In The Red) brings us yet another vocal sampling from Skywalker. Nothing like we've heard thus far on Vinyl Suicide, he digs deeper into his singing vault to churn the song up. The penultimate track, 'Fiction Factory' (1980) is yet another trip down early '80s memory lane. Man, it just takes you right back there at the beginning of an era of music that just, thankfully cannot be forgotten. The final track is another version of 'Steady Eddie Steady,' this time from 1980. Quite why the band needed to keep tinkering with it is beyond me, but this one is definitely moodier, much darker; a reggae feel incorporated this time.
Overall, 'Single Shots - The Vinyl Suicide of Fàshiön' from Luke Skyscraper James is one of those must-have albums. Not just because you're a Fashion fan (of this indie post-punk version of the band or the more commercial, smooth version that found the charts afterwards), but because you're a fan of good, honest music from the day. Owning these songs, tracks that in most cases have never seen the light of day since their late '70s, early '80s creation is like finding an old vinyl record in amongst all your own that you know doesn't belong to you - but that you simply cannot stop from playing; and loving!
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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