Firehose: “Choose Any Memory”
Last summer I did a writeup featuring a song by the Minutemen (“I Felt Like a Gringo“) and their late, great leader, D. Boon. But the Minutemen story didn’t exactly end when Boon died in 1985 after tragically being thrown from the back of the band’s van when it went off the road while on tour. Surviving members George Hurley and Mike Watt were contacted a few months later by 21-year-old Ohio State student Ed Crawford, an avowed Minutemen fanatic who wanted to audition for Watt and Hurley in the hope of forming a new band. Despite their reluctance, Crawford’s persistence paid off, and upon hearing him play, the ex-Minutemen were impressed enough that they decided to give it a go.
Crawford renamed himself “ed fROMOHIO,” they called the band fIREHOSE (again with the odd capitalization, which I will now proceed to ignore), and the new trio wasted no time touring and recording. I distinctly remember being pretty skeptical about all this at the time, thinking that it was just done too off the cuff and too soon after Boon’s death for it to work. But when I picked up their debut album, Ragin’, Full-On, which came out later that year (1986), I was pretty blown away. They didn’t sound a whole lot like the Minutemen at all, save for Hurley and Watt’s great rhythm section, but they already had a sound of their own that was some sort of logical extension of the Minutemen sound. Crawford’s guitar playing was energetic, and his singing voice was more melodic than Boon’s, although it still sounded sort of like he was just a guy hanging out with his buds in the basement, jamming. It just so happened that his buds were excellent musicians, and that Crawford was actually quite a good songwriter.
“Choose Any Memory” is the song that convinced me that they might just have pulled it off. It’s a quick, tight little shot of power-pop, jangly enough to remind me of R.E.M.’s sound at the time but punkier, more Minutemen-like. Its verses built in volume and speed within every line, bursting out finally into a passionate chorus that proved Crawford’s singing talent. Hurley wails away on the drums, reinforcing his reputation as one of the best drummers of the era, and Watt pins it down with a solid and melodic bass line. Throw in a succinct guitar solo, and it’s an intensely satisfying nugget of post-punk power pop (“P4,” if you will). Firehose returned with several more excellent albums, most notably the followup album, If’n, but “Choose Any Memory” remains one of the best highlights of the band’s career.