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Down Fi - America Now

  by Robert Fisher

published: 26 / 4 / 2010

Down Fi - America Now
Label: Gustav Records
Format: CD


Despairingly powerful and angry debut album from the Down Fi, the current band of Craig Bell, the bassist with the influential Rocket From the Tombs

This CD took a long time arriving. It went back and forth between Edinburgh and California in the US and Royal Mail three times and then got itself lost. A second copy was obtained from the publicist and managed to find its way here even though it was in an envelope with the wrong address on it. There are some benefits to living in a smaller town and that might be one; in a larger city, the mail would have been returned for a fourth time. All during the process, I was anticipating the arrival of the CD in a way that only a fan of Cleveland rock could. The leader and force behind The Down Fi is one Craig Willis Bell who is an early (1974) member of Rocket From the Tombs, having joined fresh from his previous work in the Mirrors, along with Peter Laughner, David Thomas, Gene O’Connor and John Madansky. Rocket From the Tombs lived a short and potent life with no released studio recordings and very little in the way of live ones. There is an excellent release on Glitterhouse Records in Europe and Smog Veil in the US of 'The Day The Earth Met The…' live recording that includes songs like '30 Seconds Over Tokyo' and 'Final Solution' that later became important songs for Pere Ubu and 'Search and Destroy' and 'Sonic Reducer' that performed the same role for The Dead Boys. When RFTT disbanded in 1975 it released the members to form The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu and gave Peter Laughner the chance to form his own band which can be heard on the posthumous 'Take The Guitar Player for a Ride' and with his band Cinderella Backstreet on the 7” from Forced Exposure doing the song 'Cinderella Backstreet' and the Velvet Underground’s 'White Light White Heat'. So it is from a long line of very influential bands that the Down FI call down their pedigree and this recording is in keeping with its origins and history. Craig Bell found his way to Indianapolis, Indiana and in doing so has assembled a group of like minded fellows to produce this slice of garage rock. This is very American Rock and Roll. It is music from the heartland, the rust belt, the broken sidewalks and empty buildings of a once mighty industrial dreamland. It is music from an adolescence of broken promises created in the certainty that there must have been something better in mind when life started. This is music grown up in garages and fueled by despair and longing for a better life or just the attempt to find the grace to accept the one handed down from a more optimistic time. Listen to the opening lines of 'America Now'…. “I see them laying roses at your feet/ I see them leave you laying bleeding down in their streets/ They promised everyone a fair shake/ So we all get what they could not take/ you do your duty for a pat on the back/ Pursue your dreams at the side of the track” penned by Bell. There are guitars that riff and rage and a rhythm section that pushes the agenda through out the ten songs on this CD. A very good version of The Peter Laughner-David Thomas song 'So Cold' opens with a classic guitar riff that mirrors Alice Cooper’s 'I’m Eighteen' before Bell sings “Gotta lose my mind/ Gotta hold on tight/Gonna do it hard/Gonna do it right” and launches us into a world of despair that can only be answered in the vague promises of the phoenix like guitars as they try to coax us to the other side. A positively cool '62 Hawk', written by Bell and Seth Tiven of the great Boston band Dumptruck, is a rock and roll love song about an old Studebaker Hawk and the promise of romance and freedom that a first car delivers. There is even a rare appearance by one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets, Banjo Frank Thedford in the version of the co-authored 'Shit City’ that had been sitting around Bell’s house on a cassette that Thedford had given him some twenty plus years before. It seems fitting that on a record that owes as much to its past as it does to its current community that Bell would include a song from such an old friend. Perhaps the famously and frequently burning Cuyahoga River, once so black with sludge and detritus from the industries that polluted its waters that it burned at least 13 times from 1868 to 1969 altered the musical gene pool in the Cleveland area and resulted in the beautiful and unique expressions found in the bands and writers that came out of the relatively obscure 70’s music scene in that city. Whatever it is that produced so many great recorded moments is alive and well in Craig Willis Bell and the Down Fi.

Track Listing:-
1 Let It Go
2 Tears In Her Eyes
3 '62 Hawk
4 Don't Keep Me Waiting
5 You Be You
6 So Cold
7 Today
8 Network
9 Shit City
10 America Now

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