Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Little Flames - Put Your Dukes Up, John

The Little Flames
Put Your Dukes Up, John


Released 2005 on Deltasonic
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 18/03/2007ce


The Little Flames:

Eva Petersen - Vocals
Greg Mighall - Drums
Joe Edwards - Bass
Miles Kane - Guitar; vocals
Mat Gregory - Guitar; vocals

Single released Put Your Dukes Up, John b/w The Lengths You Go in 2005.

1. PUT YOUR DUKES UP, JOHN:

I first heard of the Little Flames through a t-shirt a friend had, he'd bought one of their t-shirts as he liked the design when going to see The Coral, fellow Liverpudlians The Little Flames were supporting at the time. We wondered what happened to them, I remembered a single and my friend was quite impressed by them. A few recent years have been a bit of a blur when composing/editing my riveting thesis on the American biopic...I really should have got out more!

A few months ago that same friend and I were shooting the breeze in our workplace, usually disccusing whatever new records are out or those we've loaned each other. Our co-employees are always riveted by our discussion of the latest Fall album, the joys of Neutral Milk Hotel, or extended discourse on Throbbing Gristle. We were discussing the latest single by the Arctic Monkeys, 'Leave Before the Lights Come On.' I don't mind them, if you put the hype to one side, though I have a feeling they might be like the Mary Chain: a fine debut album and then an alright career of diminishing returns? What I quite like about those Arctic Monkeys is a factor overlooked by many who choose to focus on the Cooper Clarke/MES-style lyrics or jangly Libertines/Smiths elements - the US hardcore inflections. Now, I'm not sure those Arctic Monkeys have really dug acts on SST or Dischord, maybe they accidentally arrived at a similar place, but the rapid angular thing reminds me of stuff like Fugazi and Minutemen (the 5th or 6th song on that album has very East Bay Ray guitar). 'Leave Before the Lights Come On' had two cover versions on the b-side, I declared the new AM lead track to be alright, a bit like their latest single and was very unsure of one track that sounded like a Christmas single recorded with some indie band who I saw last year supporting the Lemonheads who failed to register. The best track I declared was the second track, 'Put Your Dukes Up, John.' He asked me who that was by...er, The Little Flames. The Coral gig was mentioned along with, "Whatever happened to them?" A quick search on the 'net from the workplace just showed those two singles and not much else - I ordered some used/cheap copies of 'Put Your Dukes Up, John' and fellow 2005 single 'Goodbye Little Rose.'

Q. So, where did they go?
A. I haven't the faintest...

There might be a valid reason, something serious. They might be quite lazy folk. They might have only had a few songs, having fallen into a career in the music biz, and gone to write some more. They did go and tour here and there with more famous indie-type bands, and I reckon they're bound to be big in Japan? They are back now, it appears they have been recording their debut album with producer Tore Johansson (Franz Ferdinand, Saint Etienne, Suede etc) in Sweden and their new single 'Isobella' (lovely indie rock) is out in the next few weeks. They're also touring with those Artic Monkeys, whose cover version sounds very Fugazi/Minutemen, but is essentially a facsimile of the original by The Little Flames. It should be pointed out that the cool Fall-style chanting on the best Arctic Monkeys song 'Fake Tales of San Francisco' probably comes from 'Put Your Dukes Up, John.'

'Put Your Dukes Up, John' reminds me of someone very post punk, I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly who - it could fit on easily on one of those many post-punk compilations the last few years, but not in a screamingly obvious way like Bloc Party, FF or Interpol who are so obvious. 'Put Your Dukes...' showcases the band's twin-guitar approach, kind of angular - though one guitarist is far more expansive and blows the mind live (...see below...). The bass and drums are tight-as, while singer Eva Petersen offers a vocal isn't that far away from the Raincoats or early Siouxsie Sioux. Maybe I'm thinking of her from The Passions. Maybe her from the Au Pairs? The tightest song shifts along at a rate, a rather intense 3 minutes and 9 seconds, the verses sung by Petersen sound suitably cold and disaffected, scathing in parts (evident on the line, "His calm makes my blood boil"), the chorus even better as the two guitarists chant "Change your tune and change your hair or you're not going anywhere" as she intones the song's title and then the put-down, "Be a C_Y_N_I_C." I always love it when people spell out words in songs, apart from 'Ouija Board, Ouija Board' by Morrissey which remains C_R_A_P.

The tight manic guitar after the first chorus makes me think of those US hardcore bands - Fugazi, Minutemen, Mission of Burma - though it might just be me? Everything sounds like what I've been listening to lots: don't ya think the new Timbaland single is a bit 'Guts on the Floor'? I did have a period in the early 1990s where I thought everyone sounded like Ride - Cathy Dennis, Belinda Carlisle, The Cure, Kim Wilde...you name it! 'Put Your Dukes...' rattles along at a rapid pace and is over all too quickly, one of those songs I have to play over and over. It wasn't a hit. I bet Steve Lamacq loved it. It's the kind of song Kenickie should have recorded, if only they hadn't signed to a major label and got lazy. The conclusion is even better, the chant and the song title, then Petersen singing the chant herself, and then the whole lot coming together with "Be a C_Y_N_I_C"

The new single 'Isobella' is pleasant enough indie rock with some interesting guitar elements, so their gig at the Little Civic last night was attended by my work-accomplice and I. The late discovery of 'Put Your Dukes Up, John' was a big factor. I guess I should have taken my dog along to fill out the venue, which was rather empty - quite odd considering this lot have been covered by and supported the Arctic Monkeys. I guess the indie kid's can't be arsed? It was worth waiting through two dire indie-support bands - the best thing about the first one was the way the singer stood like Bobby Gillespie standing like Alan Vega & the best thing about the second one was the way they managed to play guitar just like John Squire on the first Stone Roses LP. Reminded me why I hated it so much - The Little Flames amusingly soundchecked with a knowing bit of 'I Wanna Be Adored.' The turnout sucked and only the new single and '...Dukes' would be known, so it was amusing that they came on played the new single, another new song and 'Dukes' in an unforgiving trio, cracking through nine songs (one was like the Banshees but not goth) in about half an hour and pissing off. It was a Fall-quality performance, like The Fall on the last tour I saw them on (...the previous band to the current one...) the material got faster. 'Put Your Dukes...' was a definite highlight, much faster and as effective as the live/Peel-version of 'Theme from Sparta FC', join in the chant...

I'm not sure who the Little Flames are influenced by, coming from Liverpool they do have a song or two that aren't far from Love (Arthur Lee must have left some DNA in the Mersey?), and they share the Beefheart-thing with The Coral and the less shite works of The Zutons (b-side 'The Lengths You Go' is like the Banshees meets The Go Go's live version of 'Automatic' with a Beefheart/Coral guitar solo halfway through. Beefheart-wise it would be earlier stuff, probably with Ry Cooder). Live they were much faster and I thought of the Banshees, Fugazi, The Slits (vocally on either the 2nd or 4th song...it happened so fast!), Sleater-Kinney's last album 'The Woods', The Au-Pairs, and The Raincoats. Or Echobelly if they'd manage to develop from pedestrian indie-rock to somewhere else...

I don't know if 'Put Your Dukes Up, John' will be on their debut LP, I don't know if the Little Flames will break through and all those indie chicks who dress like Karen O, Lovefoxxxxx from CSS, or Beth Ditto will start to dress like Eva Petersen. The album might be a bag of kack. It might get lots of rave reviews. It might just be good ol' indie rock. Who knows...but this is a classic single and definite unsung-material.

2. PUT YOUR DUKES UP, JOHN lyrics:

Put your dukes up, John
Yeah, put your dukes up John
You were preened and sanitised
Struck dumb by good advice

Your integrity was bruised
Your celebrity a ruse
They pulled the rug from under
Made way for new pretenders

(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
Put your dukes up, John
Put your dukes up, John
(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
Put your dukes up, John
Put your dukes up, John
Be a C_Y_N_I_C
Be a C_Y_N_I_C

The profit margin blinds them
They groomed and ostracised them
His calm makes my blood boil
His calm makes my blood boil

(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
Put your dukes up, John
Put your dukes up, John
(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
Put your dukes up, John
Put your dukes up, John
Be a C_Y_N_I_C
Be a C_Y_N_I_C

(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
(Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere)
Change your tune and change your hair
or you're not going anywhere
(Change...)
Put your dukes up, John
Put your dukes up, John
Be a C_Y_N_I_C
Be a C_Y_N_I_C.

(Written by The Little Flames and published by Deltasonic Music Ltd)

3. Not long after 'Isobella' and a tour supporting Arctic Monkeys, the Little Flames split into three. Will that album ever come out?


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