We’ve only ever seen Inspector Morse a couple of times. We didn’t live in Oxford when it was first broadcast, and so were denied the pleasure of solving the show’s real mystery: how the hell he managed to drive from Barton to Jericho in under 90 seconds. One episode we do recall was centred around clubbing and Ecstasy – in the haze of memory we recall it being somewhat melodramatic in those Leah Betts days, but we do remember a scene in which Morse pays a visit to a rave producer’s impossibly palatial abode. Not finding what he’s after, John Thaw takes a listen to the musician’s latest work in progress and is horrified to find a sample of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion (or somesuch), spitting out disgustedly, “This is magpie music!”
Well, the poor old detective would have had trouble with the new CD from Thame duo Fee Fi Fo Fum, which is magpie music par excellence. Pretty much all five tracks on the (rather crappily named) EP seem to be created out of tiny offcuts from various moments in the history of rock, loosely bolted together. The truly amazing thing is how cohesive and intriguing the result turns out to be. Opener, “Lord Of The Pool” quickly jumps from an insectoid clicking to what we might call the “rockless riff”, and the piece sounds like a whole bunch of AC/DC tunes chopped up on a stuttering train, simple rock heaviosity laid bare without any of the balls and bolshiness or rock heroics. Not that’s it’s arid and knowing, either…in fact, the playing is endearingly loose, coming on like the inverse of 50 Ft Panda’s clinical high speed canter through rock stances. FFFF go for the fold and tear approach, rather than the guillotine’s slice, and this is what stops their music turning into a scholarly introvert mess, a maximalist bedroom rock fantasy for sub-Zappa misfits.
Take “Wisdom Soup”, for example. Within the first 30 seconds the guitar style has leapt from a Graham Coxon mega-delay effect, to a chiming neo-African chime, to a Southern fired rock fuzz. You couldn’t call it a desperately neat composition, but neither does it feel arbitrary – the image that comes to mind is one of a designer flipping through swathes of material, searching for exactly the right texture.
It’s a fascinating release, and it’s hard to say how exactly it works so well: it sounds neither rehearsed nor improvised, neither dumbass nor arch, neither punk nor prog. Time will tell whether there’s anything further to be mined from this seam (there are only so many things one can do with guitar and drums, and FFFF seem to have done most of them within 21 minutes), but for now enjoy a quality release that seems to be outside of any local school or trend.
Oh, and if you’re asking, we’ll have Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Tenor Saw, thanks.