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Freeheat – Back On The Water (Planting Seeds Records)

Back in 1985 kicking my heels to ‘Psychocandy’, I would have found the idea of Jim Reid and I settling down, having kids, getting married, kind of weird. I would have been even more shocked to learn that by 2007 we would have done all those things, just not together. Comfortingly, some things never change, e.g. all those Chainisms I grew up with and cherished. The uncomplicated vocabulary laced with love and lust and being fucked up, the squalling feedback, the evil acts of guitar torture, the weary, insouciant whine of a voice; these can be found on Freeheat’s ‘Back On The Water’.

Freeheat, for those of you who were looking the other way, were Jim Reid & Ben Lurie’s ramshackle post Jesus and Mary Chain gang. They released the fine ‘Retox’ E.P. a few years ago, played some gigs and trundled merrily on their way. ‘Back On The Water’ is a handy catch-up collection for intrigued onlookers and Reidy completists (hello) alike, a pick ‘n’ mix selection of live tracks recorded in Amsterdam in 2002 (not 2003 like it says on the album sleeve – doh!) and olde studio tinkerings dating back to 1997- pre JAMC split. Live and studio tracks are intermingled here and it’s not immediately apparent which is which – a testament to the wiry live power Freeheat were generating on that particular night in Amsterdam. Joining Lurie and Reid to complete the band line-up were The Gun Club’s Romi Mori on bass – who gets a chance to shine here on the cute see-sawing duet ‘The Two Of Us’ - and fiendish Earl Brutus drummer Nick Sanderson. And jeez, between the four of them they managed to blast out a fearsome noise. The live tracks here will have you kicking yourself for not being down the old Paradiso on March 16th 2002.

Happily, the Reid way with an engagingly simple pop tune seems to have remained intact throughout the trauma of the JAMC’s messy end. Kindly note the Sugar Sugar high of ‘Down’ as it canters along with its ‘Shakin’ Street’ vibe. Irresistible and pretty much worth the price of admission alone. ‘Shine On Little Star’ is an out and out classic, swooping and building into one blissful swoon and surprisingly quite sweet and gooey. Jim’s voice is less petulant, more seductively confiding. Mmmm. What’s more there are two versions here, first the studio demo, soft and strokeable, then a shivery live cut that summons the ghost of ‘Darklands’.

The music here isn’t a huge departure from the JAMC oeuvre, in fact it’s not even bothered to pack an overnight case or even get up off the sofa. The only discernible difference is the slightly rawer garage feel to proceedings. ‘Get On Home’, spins around a cranky Stooges riff and some fantastically primal guitar wailing. The irritable ‘Facing Up To The Facts’ grumbles ‘don’t want to be happy’ before letting loose with some deranged wah guitar scrabblings.

There’s a sense here of the band just getting off on creating some good old rock ‘n’ roll, of being too old and too wise to be arsed with the industry trappings that surround them. It’s not like there’s ever going to be a ‘proper’ Freeheat album, with the various band members scattered (Lurie’s back in Australia), so give thanks to the firey god of feedback that Planting Seeds Records had the wit to ensure these songs were snagged and tagged before they zipped off into the stratosphere for good.

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