We Start Fires - The Phoenix (Manchester) - 23.6.04

There's a war going on out there. On one side you have the music industry trying to grab as much money as they can. On the other side you have bands with a DIY ethic releasing albums on their own labels, giving away tracks free on the net and even signed bands likes the Libertines who just f**k off and do their own guerilla gigs for free in fans front rooms. We first came across We Start Fires when they entered last years In The City Unsigned competition, they didn't get through and decided to record and release their album independently as one defiant statement that read if you don't want us we'll do it our own way.

The last time We Start Fires played Manchester it was part of Ladyfest, the annual celebration of women in music and arts (which spread from one city to 4 separate events in the UK). This time they're out on their own in the middle of the World Cup playing to the people who couldn't give a damn about Beckham or Sven's on the pitch or extra-curricular activities. What's immediately apparent is how far We Start Fires have come in the last 9 months. Those Kenickie influences are still apparent, but tonight was a sign that the band are coming into their own. "Queen Bee" shows the band have a darker side with a slow meandering verse leading up to the shouty chorus of "You don't know who I am". Elsewhere quirky synth sounds which sound out straight out of Playschool or the Teletubbies and at times strangely sound like surf guitar played by Muse's Matt Belamy. There's a very definite neo-classical feel to the Melissa Marx's synths and combined with the punky stop start punk of the songs this is irresistible. Still proving that they have that pop edge, "Ruby Slippers" is played from the early demo's and reminds us instantly of Kenickie and Angelica. "When You Fall" has an unforgettable hooky chorus proving that pop runs through their veins.

We Start Fires are a band who wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but at the same time sound like a breath of fresh air. The success of a band like Surferosa proves that there's a market out there for a band like We Start Fires. It just needs one spark to set it off and then they'll be unstoppable

Alex McCann

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