In the days before the internet – yes, I know this is ancient history for many of you, but bear with me – the usual rota for bands and artists with record deals went something like this: record one album over a mind-bogglingly lengthy period of time, market it, tour the hell out of it and then do sod all for about four years when you might deign to give your fans some more product. It was, if we were honest about it, something akin to urine extraction. Admittedly there were a few who bucked this trend, a few whose work ethic was to – and continues to be – highly admired. In the mainstream I can think of Neil Young and Tom Waits. For the lesser known, but no less valid, underground, can we please all do a bit of a standing ovation for the really quite marvellous Bill Steer?
Steer, the guitar hero behind the extreme metal band Carcass, has become such a regular fixture on the metal scene that you sometimes forget just how prolific and influential he has been. People with much better knowledge and much better grammar than I have written lucidly and evocatively about Carcass but we should also note Bill’s other projects worthy of investigation, namely Gentlemen’s Pistols and Angel Witch. Oh yes, there is that small matter of a band called Napalm Death too. You might have heard of them. Like I said, standing ovation, if you please.
Firebird, Steer‘s blues rock project finally (and somewhat regrettably to my mind) called it a day at the back end of 2011 so this re-release of their fourth album, “Hot Wings” (presumably Bill needs to buy some more studio time for yet another project) is a good enough reason to dive back into their 1970s inspired bluesy, hard rock. “Hot Wings”, like all of Firebird‘s releases, positively reeks of the darkened pool hall with its sticky, beer soaked floors and long dark nights of the soul.
Whether it’s the “Oh look, here’s yet another three minute slice of genius for you” that is the opening track ‘Carousel’, or the groove laden ‘Misty Morning’, or the slow, blues panache of ‘I Wish You Well,‘, there is plenty here to admire and be thoroughly entertained by. There’s a dirty, fuzzy groove running across this album that reminds me of mid-period Black Crowes but without the louche, smoky, marijuana indulgence that often blighted those records.
Steer has this remarkably straightforward ‘take it or leave it’ approach to his songwriting and delivery; there are no airs,graces or pronounced egotism. There is, thankfully, a deep sense of love, care and attention to detail that makes this record, whilst undeniably derivative, equally undeniably infectious and charming. Firebird: gone then, but certainly not forgotten.