Light ‘em Up Label: Idol
Lest anyone with a limited knowledge of British slang enter into this review thinking it’s a discussion about a bunch of gay bashers, let’s clarify that, in the UK, it’s common practice to refer to cigarettes as “fags.” And since the title of the album is Light ‘Em Up and the individual on the cover is, in fact, holding a cigarette, it’s fair to presume a relative absence of homophobia.
So let’s just move on, then, shall we?
The story of the Fags and their album, Light ‘em Up, is much more depressing than you’d ever imagine from all the anthemic pop/rock songs with big-ass choruses. If you go to the band’s MySpace page and check out its blog, you can read a Metro Times Detroit interview with the band’s frontman, John “Speck” Liccardello, where he discusses all the shit the band went through during its tenure at Sire Records. Rather than spoil it for you, let’s just say that there’d be little point in you trying to seek out the material the band released for the label; by the time you’re done reading about their experiences, you’ll probably want to go beat someone’s ass over at Sire. Hell, you might even feel the urge to give Speck a big man-hug and say, “Dude, it’ll be okay,” but you’d be better served by channeling those possibly-inappropriate emotions into buying a copy of the album.
All you kids out there who worship the ground that Butch Walker walks on, Light ‘em Up might well find you changing the object of your affections. This is riff-heavy stuff that’s catchy as hell, with a limited amount of studio gloss; Tim Patalan, the band’s bassist, handled production and mixing duties on the disc, emphasizing the power in the band’s pop and keeping the band’s rock chops at the forefront.
Of course, with any album that embraces power pop as much as this one does, it’s inevitable that Cheap Trick will be used as a reference point, and it’s certainly not inappropriate to do so. A perhaps more surprising – but no less valid – comparison, however, is to Def Leppard; “Here’s Looking At You” and “Mistake” both demonstrate considerable knowledge of Sheffield’s favorite sons, particularly on the latter’s guitar work. And, by God, you can also hear some similarities to Bryan Adams’ work – though, of course, we’re referring to the material from his undeniably classic Cuts like a Knife/Reckless era rather than the later, schmaltzier years.
Perhaps inevitably, the song that best summarizes the feel of Light ‘em Up is “Rockstar.” With cowbell-powered verses and a chorus that finds Speck singing of feeling like “a rockstar on a Saturday night,” it is, quite frankly, better than anything the aforementioned Mr. Walker has managed since his Marvelous 3 days.
In a nutshell, it rocks…and so does the rest of the album.