Given the fact that this blog derives its name from the first That Petrol Emotion LP, it’s fair to say that I’ve not written about TPE that often over the course of the last 5 years or so as I might have done. But choosing to give a play to the band’s fifth LP ‘Fireproof’ the other day gives me an excuse to do just that.
Throughout a career which saw their 5 LPs released on 4 different labels, the Petrols permanently seemed on the brink of a commercial breakthrough. Yet for some reason, they never quite made it. Their best chance probably came on the back of the release of probably their most commercial single ‘Big Decision’ as far back as second LP ‘Babble’. But that LP contained nothing else remotely commercial and by the time non-LP single ‘Genius Move’ came out, the moment had passed.
Part of the problem, at least for radio programmers, was that the band was impossible to pigeonhole. In particular LPs 3 and 4 (‘End of the Millenium Psychosis Blues’, admitedly not the catchiest nor most radio friendly of LP titles, and ‘Chemicrazy’) generated a bewildering range of singles from the Celtic tinged ‘Cellophane’ to the out and out dance number of ‘Groove Check’ to the more straightforward pop of ‘Sensitize’.
It’s ironic then that they delivered their most coherent record, ‘Fireproof’ on their own Koogat label after they had been dropped by Virgin. If Sean (a.k.a John) O’Neil had delivered their most accessible tunes early on, then new songwriting partnership Raymond Gorman and Ciaran McLaughlin were, by ‘Fireproof’, capable of delivering some fine pop tunes themselves.
‘Fireproof’ largely eschews the eclecticism of their earlier LPs for a more straightforward indie rock/pop template and as such would have been far easier for a major label to have pushed. There are plenty of classic songs on the record, the song from the video below would surely have been a hit, but with waning press interest, the record never got the exposure it deserved and the band split amicably in 1994.
There, of course, has been a sequel to their career with a reformation for live dates in 2008 and 2009. One of my biggest musical regrets over the lifetime of the blog is that I didn’t manage to get to any of the shows with their only Scottish date a show at T in the Park.
It’s been all quiet over at thatpetrolemotion.com since December 2010 when singer Steve Mack announced that the band was ‘on hiatus’ due to the birth of his son Theo. No word at all during 2011 but I harbour hopes that the Petrols will return at some point in the not too distant future although Steve seems to have a new band called STAG.
Meanwhile, here’s a live version of ‘Last of the True Believers’ from ‘Fireproof’, recorded at one of the reformation shows:
Your best hope of getting the LP would seem to be secondhand in shops or by download with the 2009 remaster still very much available.