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Record Review Reprint
Dubbed as number one in the "BeCalm" series, Fireships is something enthusiasts of Hammill's music have been waiting for since the miraculous And Close As This: an album in the introspective style. My only caveat regarding this release is the unpleasant monotonous beat that takes over the first track after a promising beginning. Other than that, this is Hammill at close to his finest. Curtains bears the stamp of the Hammill enigma wonderfully. The lyrics avoid being too direct a treatment of well-worn topics, which is my general complaint about his later work. A marvellous ambience and creation of a perfect ambiguousness of topic and music. Most touching. Even the regrettably transparent yet trenchant lyrics to His Best Girl cannot spoil the sparse but lovely music. Hammill sings in his Sunday best glowing lower register. Enchanting. The gentle rhythms and vocal stroking of Incomplete Surrender lead into the title track which takes a little while to accustom to compared to the rest of the material but which contains more development than most of the album. Tasteful use of percussion and restrained dynamics make this song worthwhile. Given Time has some of Hammill's finest guitar material I think. Occasionally, he will cohere with a harmony for a few notes quite remarkably, creating what Debussy used to call "harmonic moments". They are here and stand out nicely. A lovely song that reminds me of the final track A Way Out from Out of Water. A reprise of Fireships leads into Gaia. I do still have an aversion to lyrics treating such worn and topical material in such a direct way. It either sounds banal or else short of what could be achieved, assuming, as I do, that Hammill is capable of far exceeding banality. Nevertheless, the music if powerful and lovely. One of the strongest tracks on the album. This album certainly encourages repeated listens and whenever one plays it, a reminder of what a minor gem this release is, is afforded.
© 1996 Phil Kime
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