Flying Saucer Attack - Keep Vinyl Alive

Self-dubbed "rural psychedelia" and "The best new band on mars", my jaw dropped the first time I heard the mysterious and alien Bristol band Flying Saucer Attack circa 1993. Their early releases were vinyl only, were pressed in limited quantities, and bore the admonishment to "Keep Vinyl Alive". It's mostly FSA's fault that I went vinyl-mad in the early-to-mid 90s. It was fun. There were no mp3s or websites, so if you heard about a cool band, you wrote to the label, received a catalog, placed your order, and waited for the happy slam of the mailbox lid. You opened the mailer, popped the record onto your turntable, and sat down to hear something that few others would ever sit down to hear. And when I heard the wall of feedback of FSA, I fell in love. Hell, I even made my own FSA t-shirt. The shirt's gone (this is for the best) but here's the design I had printed on it...yep, that's my FSA record spinning on my turntable...

Those days are gone for ever, I shoulda just let them go. And I did, sorta. I'm not convinced that FSA were right when they wrote "CDs destroy music" any more than I'm convinced that "mp3s destroy music". I'm not hell bent on being anachronistic. If I were, I wouldn't be converting my vinyl to mp3 and I certainly wouldn't be putting FSA mp3s on my blog. It's sacrilegious, perhaps. But music evolves/devolves. We're living in a period where one can buy music on vinyl, CD, or mp3 format. Sometimes even the same album. Each format has its merits and I'm not interested in declaring a winner. But for the uninitiated, here's a chance for you to sit back and listen to some FSA spinning. If you want to learn more about the band, here's a good (perhaps too good?) source: FSAFAQ. You'll see that relative to some folks, I'm hardly overly obsessed about this band. Perchance.

First let's hear "All About Dreams", one of my favourite FSA moments. It came on a 7" included with 3,000 copies of Vol 4 Issue 4 of Ptolemaic Terrascope in Spring 1994. This illustrated quarterly was published in Wiltshire, England, and it seems to have been dedicated to psychedelic and folk music, old and new. I found my order receipt inside the zine; I ordered it from Blackjack Records in Oakland CA on June 21, 1994. I paid $5.45 for the zine/7" import. In the same order I picked up FSA's "Crystal Shade" 7" ($4.20), Guided by Voices' "Fast Japanese Spin Cycle" 7" ($3.50), and Cher Doll Records' "The Amazing Phantom Third Channel" compilation 7" ($2.90). My whole order, including shipping to Canada, came to $19.17. So, for the price of one store-bought CD at that time, I got 4 great records and a very strange but interesting zine to read. This issue features articles on Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane, and Guided by Voices and Flying Saucer Attack (!). The latter two bands share the A-side of the 7"; the A-side is by a band called "Anglagard", who I know nothing about. GBV's inclusion is "Chicken Blows", which appears on Alien Lanes and thus will not appear here. More on GBV very soon; they're the other band that encouraged me to go vinyl-goo-goo. Here's the zine:

Here's the record (with hand-scratched label):

And, at long last, here's the song:

Side A - Flying Saucer Attack - All About Dreams [5 stars mp3]

Second up is "Soaring High" from the 7" released on US-based VHF records in 1993. Only 700 copies were pressed in this particular batch, on purple marbled vinyl. I love this song.

Side A - Flying Saucer Attack - Soaring High [5 stars mp3]

For my final selection, I've decided to post FSA's cover of Wire's "Outdoor Miner" from a 7" released on the UK label Domino Records in 1995. I think it nicely illustrates the benefits of not being too attached to one technology. The A-side of my 45 "pops" badly for the first 30 seconds, so I never really enjoyed listening to this song. But, by converting it to an mp3, I was able to use the so-so Audacity software to sorta remove the pops (granted I did a hack job of it). So, without the old technology I'd never be able to hear the song, and without the new technology I'd never be able to hear the song in its proper form. Well, there are some flaws in my logic, but let's never mind them.

You can actually SEE the pops here:

And you can hear them in this 30-second clip:
Outdoor Miner sample with pops [mp3]

Here's the record sleeve:

And here's the final version of the song, de-popped:

Side A - Flying Saucer Attack - Outdoor Miner [3 stars mp3]

It's still not my favourite FSA song, although it's the most accessible of the three, and it certainly sounds better without the pops. Who'd have thunk the pops would matter in the midst of all that noise? Well, me, obviously.

I'm curious to know what you think. Post a comment.

1 comment:

harold hollingsworth said...

Love FSA, nice to see you as a fan of their wonderful early soundscapes!