Now that I’ve listened to San Francisco-based band The May Fire’s latest self-produced EP, The List, 20 times or more, the feeling I get when I first load it up and press play is one of excited anticipation. Catty Tasso’s voice opens up with just a couple of guitar chords behind her, singing “all the people on the streets are burning up!” in that strained voice of hers, and I wait for El Pipe’s drums to kick in and signal that the band is going to fling their first track (“Burning Up”) at my feet. What a great way to start a record.
The greatest thing of all, though, is that it’s like that almost all the way through. With the exception of the plodding “Red Unicorn,” (which has some interesting flourishes but never quite captures my heart) this EP accomplishes in only six tracks what other bands can’t do with a full album complete with bonus tracks. It captures perfectly what it feels like to be young and alienated, living in the middle of a great big city in which most of the people around you don’t even know who you are. Take lines like “all the people on the streets are burning up/ the tears of fear are falling down,” “don’t want to do what everyone has done/ can’t sign the list, can’t wait in line,” and “but everything goes around and around/ nothing lasts forever, don’t you know?“, combine them with loads of gritty, soaring guitars, bottom-heavy bass and drums that are on a mission, and the result is 100% pure urban frustration.
Tasso’s voice doesn’t have a lot of range, however. It’s nasal, flat, bored, disaffected. But when she’s telling us that she’s “on a riot,” that she’s “got nowhere to go” and that “all these people moving/ we want it all” (in “No Clone”), you realize she’s supposed to sound like that. Her dispassionate delivery juxtaposes with the passion of her words to create this boxed in, trapped feeling. Just liked I’ve felt myself sometimes, living alone in some giant metropolis.
Meanwhile, the guitars are soaring above it all, celebrating life as a guitar.
The Breeders – Last Splash
The White Stripes – Elephant
Sleater-Kinney – Call the Doctor