A cover of a forgotten fifties folk tune, "Sally Free And Easy" is the track that makes explicit Flying Saucer Attack's romantic purpose, tightly drawing the strings together which connect their dignified feedback thrum to earlier English art traditions. What results is a record which has slipped out of time: its committment to noise and blur would have barely qualified it as music in 1958, but it somehow belongs more to then than to now, even so.
Maybe it's because, unlike most covers, this sounds absolutely freed from cynicism. I've nothing against cynicism, it's served me well as a first line of defense against cant and bogusness, but it's undeniable that this decade has been perhaps a bit too knowing and hard-faced. One way to get away from that is to get off your face on chemicals or noise or both, and to the very casual observer Flying Saucer Attack probably come over as another neo-psychedelic crew, blasted on some West Country heath, a more ruralist Spacemen 3.
Far from the truth. Flying Saucer Attack's most plainly enjoyable songs remain their brace of fuzzed-up indie covers, which took songs by Suede and Wire and showed that turning up the noise just made them more pop. Though those tracks are far from typical, they point up how FSA at their best used feedback not to get out of it but to get further into whatever was there in the song-skeleton in the first place. In the case of Sally Free And Easy, that means skin upon skin of expressionist noise-gauze which wring every last drop of wistfulness from the song, leaving this listener feeling cleansed.
So, hands up who's listened to a Flying Saucer Attack record this year?
I do still have this single somewhere but again it's been a while since I played it - this time, though, I have strong and fond memories of it. In the entry I'm clearly protesting too much that FSA are somehow different from most folky noiseniks, this is the "narcissism of small differences" at work. And I'd have been quite happy if they'd just knuckled down and done an album of covers, like a scragglier Nouvelle Vague. I am still a sucker for fuzzy or broken-down wistful cover versions, witness Lassigue Bendhaus, "The Light 3000", Justus Kohnke's "Wichita Lineman" etc. which all seem to be in a pretty similar tradition to FSA's efforts, just a lot quieter. It's a corny way to get a response, but it works on me.
I am not sure how "turning up the noise" makes the Wire and Suede covers more pop. It's true though that you're focussing on familiar things - the hooks, the lyrics, the melody - in an odd setting, rather than thinking about the personality or myth or creativity behind the original record. In one way this is "more pop", it depends where you locate pop.
My odd sideways attack on cynicism is probably a lunge at mid-90s lounge covers of things, the Mike Flowers Pops etc. FSA now seems a strange place to take a stand on this.
"Sally Free And Easy" is I now believe quite a well-known folk tune. "Forgotten" in para 1 stands for "Folk? It's all forgotten to me, mate".
On the whole, though, I'm quite pleased with myself for picking this, token or not.