Figures of Light: “Drop Dead” Gritty, Lowdown Sonic Rebellion!

Figures of Light: “Drop Dead” Gritty, Lowdown Sonic Rebellion!

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Figures of Light is an American proto-punk band formed in 1970 by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Michael Downey. Figures of Light’s first concert on July 23, 1970, was recorded in stereo, complete with the television smashing finale. The complete “TV Smashing Concert” was finally released on March 1, 2013 in a limited edition multicolored vinyl 12″ LP on Norton Records. FOL’s full-length CD “Drop Dead” was recorded in Brooklyn, New York at Mitro’s Studios and produced by Mick Collins of The Dirtbomb.

For the new Autotuned-generation who doesn’t have a clue what proto-punk is, Wiki describes the genre as: “Proto-punk is a term used retrospectively to describe a number of musicians who were important precursors of punk rock in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, or who have been cited by early punk musicians as influential. Typically, these artists were not themselves considered punk; furthermore, the typification is not widely regarded to have been the result of a distinct musical genre as these precursors came from a wide array of backgrounds, styles, and influences.”

For us oldies, we can hear everything as far back as The Velvet Underground to The Kinks, The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and even The Who, within the tracks off “Drop Dead”. I could talk about how raw and visceral the performance here sounds, but what amazes me about this record, by contrast, is how authentically good it sounds.

Although these are the synthesis of the famous 3 chord songs, to talk down the musicianship of Figures of Light as a point of punk orthodoxy seems beside the point when you listen to this record. The guitars that dominate the album do not sound sludgy at all. They bubble and sizzle like a steak in a skillet; the rhythm section too, is solid, and without it, this 15-track album would go nowhere fast.

What we have here is an amazingly sharp, dense, harsh and muscular sonic attack. “My Box Rocks” kicks things off with a menacing prowl, “Fifteen Minutes Of Fame” puts things into overdrive, “Alice” hints at the craziness still to come, with “You’re So Innocent” providing the starting point for the energetic cacophony that follows. Once the lead guitar solos kick in, it’s like the afterburners have been lit and there’s no turning back for the rest of the album.

Overall, “Drop Dead” is an incredibly powerful album and represents a real hybrid of the free- form acid drenched jamming of the late sixties, whilst looking forward to punk, garage-rock and grunge! This is what rock and roll is all about: a howl from the gutter and gushes of raging noise. The music gyrates and moves like it’s barely in control, then brings itself back in line to deliver the killer punch.

There is no other album that I have recently heard which captures such a feeling of gritty, lowdown sonic rebellion as “Drop Dead”. Figures of Light’s ear-splitting force is just the sort of racket you need to shake the cobwebs off of your dirty old soul.

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