For those unaware, Fireside's stateside story is an odd one. In the mid-nineties, the band's fantastic second album Do Not Tailgate was picked up by American Recordings and released in 1996, and the band got a spot on the then-popular Lollapalooza Festival. However, soon afterward, the band was dropped and picked up by Crank!, who issued the phenomenal Uomini d'Onore, as well as a reissue of their first record Fantastic Four and a B-sides/EP collection titled Hello Kids. Elite followed in 2000, and went unreleased in the U.S.
Then came 2003.
Singer Kristofer Astrom had been busy with solo project Hidden Truck; guitarist Pelle Gunnerfeldt had been producing and mixing records for top selling artists such as T(I)NC, the Hives, and many more Swedish bands; drummer Per Nordmark had been moonlighting as a drummer in multiple acts; bassist Franz Johansson had been doing whatever it is bassist's do in their free time.
Just as much as any fan of the band, I was surprised (and ecstatic) to walk into the local record store and see a copy of a new Fireside album (let alone it to be released through V2), so I picked it up...and was not let down.
The band kicks it off with the powerful "All You Had," a track full of noise, static, and a grooving, fuzz bassline. The production is fantastic. The band keeps rockin' on through "Follow Follow," "The Betrayer," "Backwards Over Germany" (whose snare drum sounds as if someone were hitting an instrument chord against the ground on high gain), and "Throw It Away." Kristofer's lyrics are as minimal and to-the-point as ever, and the flow of the record is strong, even though the band has dropped its trademark harder sound for a more raw, noisey indie sound; however, it all fits perfectly. The album's breather track, "I'm Coming Home," is a sort of reprieve from the noise, with a clean guitar track, organ, and Kristofer's low voice carrying us through a soft point.
"Problem (To You)" kicks it back up a few notches, with its feedback and pulsating rhythms, and the bridge pulls it all together with a lovely, raw organ line. Their rock continues with "All Criminals Are Us," "Swinging Sid's Chain Around," and the album closer "Player."
Overall, this record is pretty damn good, and reaffirmed Fireside's position as one of Sweden's top acts, let alone in the world. The album is harmonious and raw, minimal and pulsating, dirty and beautiful. Die-hard fans of the band's older material may find this one a little more difficult to get into, but when they do, it becomes a gem in the crown of the monumental Fireside back catalog. Unfortunately, though, I believe V2 hasn't pressed any more for U.S. distribution (seeing as how they didn't give the band support to tour here...just another story of the industry depriving the consumers of good music and the band of popularity).
In conclusion, this record was easily one of the most underrated stateside releases of 2003, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in checking it out. I guess Interpunk may have some copies left, as well as the Amazon Zshops, but once it's gone, it's gone...and the imports will be coming in from Europe.