DER KOMMISAR: THE CBS RECORDINGS
After The Fire (ATF)
I will admit from the outset that the inclusion of this particular is a bit unfair, but I am including the entire discography of After the fire under one title because it is the only way any ATF music has been released on CD other than a similarly named Best Of compilation that was terribly mastered. And since the only title ever released in the U.S. was actually just a “best of” compilation including this incredible band under these circumstances seems justified. I will primarily focus songs that were on the original U.S. title and other key songs.
After floundering for many years as a “prog” band in the UK sounding more like Genesis and Yes then anything like the music contained on this collection, a young guitarist named Andy Piercy joined the group and things changed. Piercy was one half of the popular British Christian duo Ishmael and Andy. They recorded one project together that I am familiar with. For trivia’s sake it should be noted that the other half od that group, Ishmael, went on to record a wonderful ska/punk project under the name Ishmael United entitled “If You Can’t Shout You’ll Have to Face the Penalty” that barely missed making this Top 50. As a result i will plug that album here and tell the reader to try and find a copy, place your tongue firmly in your cheek and enjoy!
After joining ATF the direction of the band began to change from a prog rock band to a more synth driven new wave. He also appeared to have an even stronger evangelical Christian influence though the entire band (at least the core members) were Christians all well. Their faith was quite clear on many of the their songs like Laser Love, One Rule for You and Take Me Higher.
Ironically to American audience they are simply known as the band that did the English version of Der Kommisar. The true irony is that the band had pretty much broken up by the time that song soared to the top of the charts in the U.S. The often confusing song was a cover of a Falco tune sung originally in German. The anti-drug song became the only hit in the U.S. for the band despite having significantly more success in Europe and the UK. I believe they may be the only artist in this Top 50 that I was never able to see live.
Highlights from the band include the aforementioned Laser love.
Your love is like a laser burning right into my life
You knowing my weaknesses you cut me like a knife
You’re separating all the wrong things from the right
With strong melodies, creative keyboards and new wave Euro vocals the song is immediately likable. And though, like the lyrics above, the majority of content is not deep or overly creative that vibe and joy expressed throughout ATF’s music make them a wonderfully enjoyable listen. But the reader be warned, this is true euro new wave with all the glitz, glam and sugary pop hooks one can muster. But hidden within the simple lyrics and memorable hooks are some very well crafted pop tunes.
Take Me higher is a personal favorite and seems a little bit like an SAT test with all the comparing and contrasting going on.
I am a minute and you are an hour
I am a room and you are a tower
I am a motion and you are the power, you are the power
I am a word and you are the line
I am a poem and you are the rhyme
I am a watch and you are the time you are time
You make my life worth living, you set this world on fire n’ just
When I think its over, you take me higher, you take me higher
Sung about as quickly as one can possibly enunciate, the live version (available n this double disc) is pure energy. And really that’s what ATF brought to their music, a certain energy that was infectious, enjoyable and just plain fun. They even included several instrumentals on their projects showing that the former prog band never lost their musical chops.
Sometimes is a personal favorite and always reminded me of the best pop rock from the Knack. What from the initial listen sounds like a fun rockin’ love song is actually a tune about God’s unending love and His refusal to let us go.
Oddly enough their biggest hit in the UK is actually a song about how an artist can sing about any subject and receive radio airplay until that same artist writes a song about their Christian faith. This truth extended into the public square and how all topics are free game except for Christianity.
They say believe in what you like as long as you can keep it to yourself
I say if what I know is right, it’s wrong if I don’t tell somebody else
What kind of line is that you’re giving me
One Rule for you, one rule for me
Other songs that should been huge radio hits for the time include: Rich Boys, Frozen Rivers, Dancing in the Shadows, Who’s Gonna Love You (When You’re Old, Fat and Ugly) and Love Will Always Make You Cry. But with no real band to promote or tour to support CBS simply let the project die and that was it for After the Fire.
There have been a few reunion shows over the years including a famous “standing room only” performance at the world-famous Greenbelt festival in 2004. There has even been talk of recording some new music or reworking older songs with new arrangements, but unfortunately nothing has materialized.
After disbanding the members went off into several different directions. The drummer Ivor Twydell went on to record three solo albums with christian theme with one those releases, Duel, receiving a pretty decent distribution into the U.S. by the same company that introduced the CCM scene to bands like Servant and stronghold. His style was similar to After the Fire sound with some of the prog influence included as well.
But it has been Andy Piercy that has made the greatest impact on the Christian Music scene. In fact Piercy has been more important to the growth of CCM’s most popular format of music than possibly any other artists though many fans have no idea who he is. As the leading proponent, producer and developer of modern worship talent in the UK Piercy is responsible for introducing to the marketplace artist like Split Level, Delirious and Matt Redman. He was one of the originators of the famous Soul Survivor worship conferences.
So, despite the short shelf life of ATF their impression has been a lasting one and clearly deserving of their inclusion in this Top 50.