The Cruise Control EP
by The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco
‘Cruise Control’ - by Sergio Tahini
In a time where you can purchase The Beach Boys’ Smile at an Esso garage or order everything The Beatles have ever done (including a pdf of Ringo Starr’s dental records) from iTunes, ‘Cruise Control’ by The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco may be the last remaining mystery record of the modern age. That nothing is known about the band themselves, makes ‘Cruise Control’ something of a mystery wrapped up in an enigma, tied up with a ribbon of riddle and dunked in a thick apocryphal gravy.
Some claimed it was never even recorded. Others said that band manager Matt Salad had lost the DAT tapes in a card game to Fish Out Of Marillion, who later destroyed them in a fit of jealous rage.
Less improbable rumours based on the record’s lyrical content circulated the press last week: that two lawsuits - one from the Church of Scientology and another, more aggressive court threat from Waltham Forest council halted the e.p’s release. The less entertaining and more tragic reality was finally revealed yesterday via the band’s website.
But now we all know the truth about the strange and slightly unnerving gestation of ‘Cruise Control’, the questions every Todd Rundgren-fearing worshipper of soft rock wants to know the answer to remain: Was it worth all the fights? The divorces? The use of Matt Salad’s legs? The answer, as if we were in any doubt, is yes!
The title track soundtracks what might happen if Hall and Oates and Kings of Leon stole David Miscavige’s car and drove it down the Los Angeles freeway at night, in search of cold drinks and miniature golf. Scientological puns galore and minimalist guitar licks are all brought to an abrupt halt at two minutes fifty five. Whatever the delays in getting this compact disc on the shelf, The Fin more than compensate with their most urgent and punchy moment yet.
‘Josi and the Juke’ presents a character who, in Fin-world hangs out just a little eastwards of ‘Not Brenda’s Song.’ If anything is stranger than the mystery of this band, it is the characters that populate their songs. Josi is a horseless urban cowboy, whose swimming pool-bound antics paint him as neither hero nor villain but maybe both: “Miniatures rattle/Inside of his glove/It’s soup for the soul/And lets him show you the love.” A consolidation of all The Faces’ finest moments into one dirty hit, the way the vocalists sing “Leyton Lagoon!” is enough to make women readily discard their knickers while their husbands go away to rethink basic principles.
The Fin have always been faithful, if subversive keepers of rock convention, and with side B comes the traditional change in mood. So as ‘List Song’ mopes indie-like in our general direction with its litany of life’s many milestones, we may at first turn away unimpressed. That is before the chorus delivers an emotional sucker punch, worthy of Alex Chilton at his most heartbroken. “If love is the answer/Then I love no one”, declares the anonymous singer, proving that if you give a man a mask, he will reveal everything.
And to drown those sorrows, 'Breakfast of Kings' sums up the ambience of the local budget chain pub so well that you may have hotel carpets, cheap pear cider and condiment sachets rolling out of your speakers. A Pogueish drinking anthem that puts one merry arm on your shoulder and sings in your ear before slinking off quicker than you can say, ‘isn’t it your round?’
And that is where I find myself, dear readers, thwumping out frothy Tail-fin copy on my laptop in a corner of the J.D. Witherspoons on Leytonstone High Road. It is Thursday morning, 11:30 to be precise. The Fin are two hours late for an exclusive interview promised to me by Matt Salad’s widow, Beverley. Just as I am about to leave, the barmaid comes over, frightened looking and puts a pint of Directors on my table with a cocktail umbrella in it. On the canopy of the umbrella printed in tiny, but unmissable text reads the words: “We Will Fight You.” The barmaid looks at me as if to say, ‘You do not know who you are dealing with. Go home.’ Secretly I am relieved - the new record is a wonderful revelation and all, but some other things are probably best kept a secret... S.T, Leytonstone, 22/10/13.