I first heard of fIREHOSE when I was a junior in high school. Someone at our lunch table had a copy of fIREHOSE’s Flyin’ the Flannel (but I cannot remember if it was a tape or a CD). It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually heard the band’s music when I picked up a copy of Ragin’, Full-On. This album was my first real exposure to the brilliance of Mike Watt, outside of the video for the Minutemen’s amazing “This Ain’t No Picnic” which was a staple on 120 Minutes in the early ‘90s.
For those who may not know, fIREHOSE started after Minutemen fanatic Ed Crawford contacted Mike Watt after the untimely death of D. Boon and convinced Watt and drummer George Hurley to continue making music. With Crawford on guitar and vocals fIREHOSE was born and in 1986 they released their debut album Ragin’, Full-On on SST Records. The album mixed elements and jazz with punk rock, not too unlike the Minutemen. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I am not that well versed in the music of the Minutemen, or fIREHOSE for that matter. I have a copy of Double Nickels on the Dime and at one time I owned a copy of the Minutemen best-of collection that SST released but that is all I’ve ever owned (and Ragin’, Full-On is the only fIREHOSE album that I’ve owned).
There have always been songs on Ragin’, Full-On that I have loved and those are the ones that I still consider the standouts (“Brave Captain,” “Chemical Wire,” “Locked In,” and “Relatin’ Dudes to Jazz”) but the rest of the album I just couldn’t get into. It’s not because it was bad, far from it, but it was much more complex than I generally prefer my music. Musically at least, I’m a pretty simple guy. I like short catchy songs that are fun and have a lot of energy. Ragin’, Full-On has those moments but it also has very complex and jazz fueled moments that are often lost on me. I listened to the CD for the first time in a few years the other night and was surprised that I actually like some of those more complex moments now…at least more than I did over a decade ago (a great example would be the song “The Candle and the Flame”). What prompted me to give Ragin’ another listen was an article that I’ve been reading in a old issue of The Big Takeover. It’s an interview with the author of the book Our Band Could Be Your Life (which I somehow missed and now totally want) and he discussed Watt a lot in the article.
fIREHOSE, like the Minutemen, was an important band in the American underground music scene and for that reason alone people should check out their music. Beyond that though, if you like adventurous post-punk then Ragin’, Full-On, and Double Nickels on the Dime, is for you.