“People were no longer arrested for not being vaccinated/ Now they were just terminated” states Roger Robinson in The Bug’s Fire album intro tune, The Fourth Day. Doesn’t that sound or paints a vividly possible picture? And that right there is a great statement and liftoff to end a trilogy! Not even Peter Jackson managed to pull with his Lord of the Rings an ending the way The Bug has boom blasted with Fire. The latest LP follows mutant dub and dancehall history milestones London Zoo and Angels & Devils, presenting another collection of true anthems suitable for the end of time.
Fire comes, same as London Zoo did, with a city of sounds. The album has a natural tectonic evolution texture. Loose your mind in the dancehall, but feel the dread of the times we are living. The music is catchy but also spine-breaking, ready to shatter and break. With no more freedom around, angst is ever-present at top levels, as high as the tallest skyscraper from a Ballard dystopian novel.
The Fourth Day gives the proper spark we needed to dive into the sonic design. It sets a tone of despair and embraces you in a cocoon of reality pestilence: Death by dub poetry!
Each time the menacing riffs of Pressure start, I can feel the sky cracking with meteorites ready to mash up cities and countries in a very similar way to how King Kong gazes ready for mayhem upon the British capital on the inside sleeve of London Zoo. The instrumental and Flowdan’s vocals are so much in tune and melded together, mixed in a way that even though I am a Bug riddim addict, I cannot imagine them separated. When Dan speaks about the revolution that needs starting, it forces you to get ready to surrender and swarm.
Probably my favorite song right now, Demon is full of poisonous imagery and feelings – youth caught in a constant hunt. This tune is a science fiction game soundtrack. Irah has a flawless patois dancehall flow, but he also bursts into singing and rides the riddim, very much like Tippa Irie did in 2008 with Angry, slaying it.
“Walk inna hell/ Me nah frightened”
The mood is left unchanged by Vexed. With a merciless flow, Moor Mother sends a peculiar king of cyber schizophrenia. The way the song builds around her voice, it is hard to tell the difference between a dream, reality, or virtual punishment. The way the Bug has cut and pasted her voice and treated it with effects, re-arranged her flow and words is purely surgical and clinically calculated craft.
Funnily, Clash ft. Logan (Stella McCartney & Idris Elba collaborator) hits hard like a Jamaican diss tune about gossip. Right before the chorus bursts into an explosive illustration of conflict. Maybe it's just me, but is he painting a picture of the UK grime scene during the desperation of the lockdown? As Logan is an athletics coach, I can relate to his competitive boxing swing flow.
War ft. JA-based dub poet King Nazamba is a follow-up to Clash, continuing the theme of bombardment on our bodies, minds, souls, and future generations. With a steady pulse of a beat and a menacing riff, this song would sound amazing on an alternative Kevin Richard Martin soundtrack for the sci-fi classic Silent Running (this film surely needs a more visionary sound design). Those prophetic images of the last forests in the solar system flown away by corporations on space ships need the sounds to match their true power.
How out dat is a frightening duppy riddim. Perfectly driven by this alpha female, Grace Jones reincarnated as FFSYTHO who plays “Tit for tat/ Play it like that nonstop/ Test that one”, having fun on the beat while delivering something between a sexual joke and full on threats. On her Twitter, she is dead honest - “My gravestone will read death by pussy”. Kevin always had a flair for choosing strong female voices of their generation. He did so with Warrior Queen, Kiki Hitomi, Miss Red, Inga Copeland, and Grouper. Top-notch creative estrogen fuelled energy!
Function from Angels & Devils is one of my top favorite songs on that LP, so the high expectations from the new Fire songs with MC Manga were there. The duo delivers! Bang is excruciating to hear, Manga’s tone is in between chant and rap.
When Hammer hits, it hits hard. The militaristic riddim only improves Flowdan as a general, leading his army into a successful Apocalypse Now campaign, “No cloak or dagger!”. In this song, you have Lord of the Flies meets the whole cast of Duncan Campbells Underworld book. In our interview from 2016, Kevin was comparing Flowdan with a novelist writing about street wars and gang clashes, so this is a proper banger soundtracking that reality.
An old-time friend and Bug collaborator, killer riddim maestro Daddy Freddy is back. Ganja Baby finds him full of energy, delivering an aggressive flow, ready to mash up any dancefloor.
“Weed was found in Solomon’s grave/ All ganjaman you have to be brave”.
Just like the Pressure with Flowdan, Fuck Off ft. Logan is a finely crafted tune where vocals and duppy dubs are perfectly galvanized. If you spin it on top volume and invite the neighbors to a party, it will transform into Every Day is Halloween meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Bomb ft. Flowdan sees the Bug and his MC return as admirals to sink the ships that caught Fire in London harbor. The war sirens are in full blast and signal the end of the conflict on the sea. The battle has moved on land with High Rise. As I mentioned James Graham Ballard earlier, clearly this tune soundtracks his ’75 novel about the disintegration of a high-rise building and its residents gradually descending into violent chaos.
Album closer The Missing is a big part of the closure and it is a wonderful way to end the circle of life and pain. It is a sort of a graphic novel subtitle grand finale, just like At War With Time ft. The Spaceape should have been for Angels & Devils. But this is a proper homage to the Grenfell Towers victims with some of that Throbbing Gristle synth decay on the instrumental, very similar to the peaceful tension of the Return to Solaris Kevin Richard Martin soundtrack.
The trilogy of Bug's albums finishes in a magnificent visual way. London Zoo’s iconic artwork of a humanoid insect, a mutant bug (not quite a fly, not quite a firefly, but in between) holding an uzi in one hand and a skull in the other, floating above a London in ashes is made by painter and street artist Fefe Talavera. Angels & Devils, on the other hand, goes in a decorative direction, it contains a poetic juxtaposition between angel wings and snakes, plus a sharp razor, and is the pure bliss work of printmaker, engraver, and art director Simon Fowler. Fire puts that finishing touch in the apocalyptic triptych with the work of art director and designer Alex Digard of Tape Echo Records and RWDFWD LTD. It is pure texture, a beautiful pattern of flames bursting because this record is hot (sonically and visually) and features a sound that you cannot contain within margins and markers that form shapes or objects. How can you hold fire?