❉ Ange Chan reviews the synth pop pioneers’ complete ’80s recordings on CD for the first time including ‘lost’ album “Ark Of Embers”.
19th April 2019 sees the release of the longest anticipated album of my life. After 37 years, Fiat Lux have finally released their album Hired History Plus, and I for one couldn’t be happier!
CD 1 features all Fiat Lux’s commercially released tracks including the band’s debut single for Cocteau Records and the five tracks released by Polydor Records in a period spanning 1982-1985. CD2 is the ‘lost’ and previously unreleased album of the 80s that never was, ‘Ark of Embers’, as the band originally intended it when it was made with producer, Hugh Jones.
As a lifelong fan, I’m casting my mind back to 1983 when I was a mere 15 years old and I first discovered the little-known band. At that time, I was heavily into Siouxsie and the Banshees and Marc and the Mambas. Fiat Lux was therefore somewhat of a departure for me, but they encroached my musical psyche completely. They weren’t particularly successful despite their concerted efforts, and only troubled the very lower end of the charts, however I LOVED them and made it my mission to lay my hands on everything they ever recorded. My local indie record shop was able to help me; I already had a good relationship with them as they used to put Soft Cell stuff to one side for me, knowing with certainty that I’d be calling in at some point to make a purchase.
However, there was some of the Fiat Lux back catalogue that I couldn’t get hold of, no matter how hard I tried. Sensing my ire and frustration, and unbeknown to me, my Mum called Fiat Lux’s management and explained my dilemma, asking for advice of where I could locate the missing recordings. In the post a few days later, I received a surprise package of the several 7” Fiat singles which I had been searching for; I was utterly ecstatic! Sadly, my joy and delight in my mother soon waned when she refused to allow me to see my beloved Fiat Lux in concert in Liverpool. Joy turned to frustrated fury, and I belligerently made it my mission to play my freebie records as loud as I could, to cause maximum pleasure for me, and maximum irritation to my parents!
Fiat Lux (which is Latin for “let there be light”), comprised of Steve Wright, David P Crickmore, and Ian Nelson (brother of the infamous Bill Nelson). They formed in 1982 and their first single was “Feels Like Winter Again”. Brother Bill produced the single and released it on his label Cocteau Records. The band went on to record singles “Photography”, “Secrets”, and my personal favourite “Blue Emotion” amongst others, with their distinctive style. I bought the blue vinyl of Blue Emotion, in its clear packaging with an embossed handprint on it, and it was the most treasured item in my ever-expanding record collection.
When the band brought out their video collection, Commercial Breakdown, it was played to near breaking point. Very arty and somewhat pretentious, it was right up my street and it influenced my teenage sartorial style, no end. With the development of technology, I was unable to play my video for a couple of decades and the thoughts of shady, empty, shadowy churches and stylised, defined hand movements in time to their music was consigned to memory, until a few years ago when a friend kindly transferred the VHS recording to a DVD and it’s been a regular viewing pleasure of mine ever since. I had to grab my Fiat Lux fixes where I could as the band split mid-80s and in 2006, Ian sadly passed away. All concepts of Fiat Lux had been consigned to both memories and my trusty records and VHS recordings.
However, in 2017 Wright and Crickmore relaunched Fiat Lux with a re-recording of “Secrets” before settling down to produce an album of new material, recorded at Crickmore’s Splid Studios.
The Hired History Plus album is in two parts; the two-CD collection brings together the entire 1980s recorded output, which are all appearing on CD for the very first time. Disc 1 features the band’s commercially released tracks including the band’s debut single for Cocteau Records and the five released by Polydor over the years 1982-1985. Disc 2 is the ‘lost’ and previously unreleased second album “Ark of Embers” as the band originally intended it when it was made with producer, Hugh Jones. It contains all the original version 12” recordings plus B-sides such as ‘Aqua Vitae’ and ‘Comfortable Life’. The tracks have all bee resourced and re-mastered from the original master tapes after months of search for them and an elongated period of time, exhaustively listening to trace the correct versions.
The CD booklet features the original album cover plus extensive sleeve notes written by Steve Wright and David Crickmore telling their story from their own unique perspective. There is also the foreword from Hugh Jones, who has also worked with Bauhaus, Del Amitri and Echo and the Bunnyman throughout the course of his career.
Hired History Plus comes right on the back of Saved Symmetry, which is an album of completely new material; now using modern synths such as a Roland Jupiter and Novation MiniNova, the pair were joined in their new recordings by Will Howard on sax and clarinet, and drummer Andy Peacock. Their aim was to achieve the classic Fiat Lux sound but for the new millennium, and they have cleverly achieved this by developing their avant-guard pop sound and bringing it right up to date. “Everyday in Heaven” is a fine pop tune about embracing second chances and taking life’s opportunities, whereas the album’s counter-balance of “Grey Unpainted Rooms” offers a more solemn view of this thing called life.
The first single released from the album, which gave us an insight of what was to follow, “It’s You” was released in 2018 and delivered an emotive and heady mix of synths, sax and sass and is a tribute to finding love again in mid-life. “I’m living in a room in a stranger’s house, I never thought I’d be here again”, croons Wright. I know just where he’s coming from!
The double resurrection of Fiat Lux albums makes this girl very happy. Listen to either one of them and they will make you see the light too!
❉ Fiat Lux: ‘Hired History Plus’ (2CD Expanded Edition) (CDBRED742) is released by Cherry Red Records on 19 April, 2019. RRP £10.95.
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel, “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in 2016. Her latest poetry collection “Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak” was published in October 2017 and her third novel “Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots” is currently a work in progress.