“What I did on my summer vacation.”
Some people might organize their stamp collection, take a trip with the family to Sunny Spain, or get the tool belt out for that much needed DIY on the house. But if you’re a super-cool Indie rock star you get your other super-cool rock friends together, record a bunch of songs, put it all together on an album, then give it a super cool name so you can pretend that this music has absolutely nothing to do with the much better music you created with your other much better band.
If Hello=Fire reminds you of The White Stripes meets Queens of the Stone Age with a dash of Raconteurs thrown in than it is probably because it was recorded by Dean Fertita, who has not only recorded and toured with the members of the afore mentioned bands, but has recruited his buddies from QOTSA, Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs as well as Michael Horrigan of Afghan Whigs to form his backing band. Fertita and his many super cool Indie rock friends seem spend all their time going in and out of each other’s studios recording tracks for their respective solo projects which also have absolutely NOTHING to do with their much better other bands.
If you sense a hint of frustration in these words than it is probably because there is a hint of frustration in these words. Don’t get me wrong, all these super cool Indie rock dudes have recorded some fairly top-notch rock albums of late. But the operative word here folks is fairly. The Raconteurs was fun, The Dead Weather’s Horehound is a neat little dark and edgy album. But can we all honestly say, with hands on hearts, that we wouldn’t gladly rid ourselves of both bands if Meg White would only take her Prozac and start recording with Jack again?
There is nothing really wrong with the latest slice of “My Little Solo Album”. It is a good rock album, quiet and self-assured with all the proper catchy rock hooks and laid-back slacker vocals. You could easily pop it on the player while you’re painting the kitchen, lying on the beach in Costa del Sol or re-organizing that stamp collection. ‘Certain Circles’ is a nice little up-tempo ditty with some nice guitar riffs and Inspiral Carpets-type organ. ‘Far From It’ starts off with hushed vocals, piano and guitar before morphing into a nice little up-tempo ditty with some nice guitar riffs and laid-back vocals. ‘She Gets Remote’ is a nice little up-tempo ditty with some nice riffage and laid-back vocals. It’s not really until ‘Mirror Each Other’ that the album, and Fertita, seems to wake up. The song revs up with a cool Surfaris-esque drum intro and enough fire and vim throughout to get the mosh pit going. You know this one will be the live show highlight. ‘Nature of Our Minds’ is the Bic lighter track and is pretty enough if a little bit vacant.
The rest of the album, from ‘She’s Mine In Sorrow’ down through ‘Someplace Spacious’, ‘I Wanna Like You’ and ‘They Wear Lightning’ are all pleasant little rock ditties with catchy rock hooks and laid-back vocals. Inoffensive enough, but if this phase of the album were an electrocardiogram on a patient then you would be seriously worried. No real tempo change, no mood shifts or unexpected twists, just a homogeneous slice of safe XFM rock. It’s not until the end that Fertita surprises us a bit. The moody ‘Parallel’ is reminiscent of Jar of Flies-era Alice In Chains, a band that Fertita, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with, and which stomps along nicely with a restrained smoldering energy missing on most of the other tracks .
Maybe that’s the trick. If Fertita can well and truly separate himself from his much better band then he may be able to create a truly good album instead of merely a decent one.