These are recordings straight out of a time capsule, recreating a slice of post-punk history when synthesizers ruled the airways to challenge the three chords and the truth ethos of guitar-based indie rock. Support slots with artists like Nik Kershaw, Blancmange and Level 42 gives an idea of the ‘new wave’ audience Fiat Lux wanted to attract at the time.
Although it harks back to a much maligned musical era, it highlights the longevity of a genre that remains influential to this day. Survivors like The Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode still fill stadiums and numerous new bands adopt the essentials of synth-pop as their modus operandi.
Fiat Lux took their name from the Latin for ‘Let There be Light’ and this double CD encompasses all the visions, enlightened or otherwise, this well-coiffured trio from Wakefield, Yorkshire were able to summon up.
In the sleeve notes, band members Steve Wright and David Crickmore write: ”Our intention with Hired History + is to put together in one place all of the Fiat Lux tracks which were either commercially released at the time (on vinyl) or were intended for release but for some reason or another, didn’t see the light of day”.
CD1 includes Feels Like Winter b/w The Illness, the A and B sides to the trio’s debut single for Bill Nelson’s Cocteau Records together with 5 tracks originally released by Polydor Records between 1982 and 1985. In addition to this there are various 12” singles and other tracks sourced from their first mini LP and re-mastered from the original master tapes.
CD2 contains the previously unreleased album ‘Ark Of Embers’ produced in 1984/5 by Hugh Jones that was intended to be the band’s sophomore release but ended up being shelved by Polydor when sales nosedived.
Their lyrics strive to be profound or portentous but mostly come across as pretentious and even seem to unwittingly envisage the band’s subsequent demise with the line: “Everything we’ve done becomes so burdensome” from Sleepless Nightmare.
To describe Fiat Lux as ‘pioneers’ is therefore a bit of stretch but there’s still a twisted nostalgia value that can be appreciated. For instance, Comfortable Life comes with a funky bass lines and a driving beat that borrows heavily from New Order’s game changing ‘Blue Monday’.
There’s a few outright duds, the tortuous slow motion Embers for one, but many of the other tracks like Secrets, Photography and Solitary Lovers stand up well and back the case that the band were harshly treated by their record label.
A sad footnote is that Hired History Plus is dedicated to the memory of Bill Nelson’s younger brother Ian, the saxophonist of the band, who sadly passed away in 2006.
Meanwhile, Wright and Crickmore have recently reformed and in 2017 released a new album, Saved Symmetry to keep the history alive.
Fiat Lux’s website