Named for Studio Litho, where Fires’ EP was recorded in January, The Litho Roughs indicates the release is a demo. Those who have heard it may beg to differ on that point, though, because there seems to be nothing rough or demo-like about the six songs on this little collection. If the songs are unpolished or need more work, they should keep that little secret to themselves. The rest of us wouldn’t know the difference.
Each of the six songs — priced at $1.11 each, making the EP equal to the price of the mark of the beast — belies a sense of humor and possibly an omen to ward off the faint of heart. Unafraid, I dove into these six songs and still have not formed a “review” opinion of this release. Lyrically, it’s a leans to sadness, but there’s way more to it than that.
Make no mistake; the music is perfect in every way for what it is, headphones or not. The lyrics are story-driven, which I appreciate. The mood is unpredictable and each listen elicits a new series of impressions. The layers are enticing and elusive of definition. In other words, this collection can’t be boxed up properly and put in a category, and that’s its appeal. Call it any number of things — lounge rock, jam rock, lyric driven jam music, power lounge — it’s definitely rock, but I don’t really know what the hell it is. I like it. Their mission to defy convention is complete for this 17 minutes body of work.
The four men responsible for this music, Ty Willman, Alan Hunt, Regan Hagar, and Dave Place, seem to have successfully morphed the music that shaped them into another thing. Willman’s vocals are clean, flexible and unique. He doesn’t remind me of anyone else. His duets with Alan Hunt’s guitar are tasty. Dave Place gets props for bringing the foundation upon which Fires built a fortress of sound unlike anyone else around.
Heavy-hitter Regan Hagar is truly “…One of the founders of the heavy sound that has made Seattle a city of rock,” just as advertised. Does he beat these songs into submission? In “Leaving,” he gives us the rhythm of that walking away sound of someone leaving. It’s maddening and persistent alongside Willman’s pleading vocals.
Fires hail from Ballard and call themselves “’Power Lounge’ Rock & Roll.” The Lithos Rough was recorded and mixed by Floyd Reitsma who was clearly in on the joke and the vision, and a great vision it is.