Thursday, April 25, 2019

FIAT LUX/Hired History Plus (2CD) review

(Cherry Red)


British trio Fiat Lux didn’t achieve worldwide success during their short existence yet they were able to build a devoted following that has continued to champion their classic early ‘80s Synthpop singles and 1984 mini album HIRED HISTORY. Formed by Steve Wright (vocals) and David P Crickmore (guitars, bass, keyboards), Fiat Lux’s line-up was finalized when Ian Nelson (sax, keyboards) was brought into the fold. Their first single was released in 1982 on Ian’s older brother Bill’s Cocteau Records label. The following year, they signed to Polydor Records and a few singles – including the near-hit “Secrets” – before they issued the mini album HIRED HISTORY. Within a year, Crickmore had left and the band’s intended 1985 album ARK OF EMBERS (produced, like the mini album, by Hugh Jones) was shelved.

Over the years, the HIRED HISTORY release has become an iconic Synthpop milestone. The trio’s blend of melodic yet haunting Synthpop combines elements similar to Depeche Mode’s A BROKEN FRAME, early Heaven 17, Japan’s GENTLEMEN TAKE POLAROIDS, solo Paul Haig, Freur’s DOOT DOOT, and Experimental/Avant-Garde electronic music. Thanks to Cherry Red Records’ two CD expanded edition HIRED HISTORY PLUS, the mini album can now be enjoyed on CD for the first time alongside numerous bonus tracks including the unreleased full-length album.

The first half of HIRED HISTORY – the previously mentioned “Secrets,” “Photography,” and “Blue Emotion” – was instantly loveable but the second half took a few spins before the more experimental recordings really sunk in. And when they sunk in, they were certainly hard to forget. Disc One of this two CD set contains the mini-album’s six songs alongside 13 bonus tracks including some great early non-album singles (the Cocteau Records single ‘Feels Like Winter Again” is a standout). These bonus tracks also include rare remixes and a few previously unreleased Bill Nelson-produced recordings. The second disc contains the unreleased ARK OF EMBERS album, which is comprised of four tracks from HIRED HISTORY plus seven additional tracks that find the band embracing their more unabashedly melodic side. It is joyous when it wants to be and moody when it needs to be. Had it been released, ARK OF EMBERS could have raised the band’s profile even higher, perhaps making them bona-fide ‘80s Pop stars. On the other hand, the band’s music could be a bit challenging to Top 40 radio programmers so who knows what could have been.

Fans of Fiat Lux are going to be over the moon with this excellent set. Synthpop fans who have not yet heard Fiat Lux need to rush out and get yourself acquainted with their music. HIRED HISTORY PLUS is excellent from beginning to end and deserves your love and attention. Three and a half decades after it was released, this expanded reissue will hopefully give the band the long-overdue attention that they have deserved for so long. (Wright and Crickmore have reunited the band - Nelson passed away in 2006 - and recently released a brand-new album, SAVED SYMMETRY.)      

Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee                                                                     

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