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Like many young Europeans at the time, the first real taste I had of Lyres – aside from copious blastings of a second generation cassette tape of their exhilarating Dutch VPRO radio broadcast from 1983 – came when their debut long-player, the sensational “On Fyre”, was released the following year. Nothing we’d heard previously coming out of USA around that time could have quite prepared us for the sound of Lyres. You see, theirs was born of an altogether different mother strain. Yes, there were those groups that were part of the still burgeoning scene that was beginning to happen, and yes, most other contenders that came our way at that time were also said to be heavily influenced by the wildly intoxicating sounds of the 1960s garage bands; but the majority weren’t cut from the same raw and inspiring framework that Lyres were.

Not the kind of group who deemed it more important to look like they stepped out of a Rolling Stones photo shoot circa ‘65, or could be bothered with parading any uniform look such as any of their own heroes, like say Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Kinks, or even The Wailers, presented back in the mid-60s. Lyres were just gonna let the music do all the talking, and so for them jeans, tee-shirts, leather jackets and a pair of sneakers would do just fine.

Producer Rick Harte’s Ace Of Hearts label were already known for their attention to detail regarding presentation of sound and artwork, through releases by the likes of Mission Of Burma and Classic Ruins. They also issued a stunning 12” EP of the earlier Lyres, and pre-figured “On Fyre” with the release of a crackshot double-deck 45 with ‘Help You Ann’ and ‘I Really Want You Right Now’, both stone cold killer tunes easily identifiable as the signature Lyres sound – their appearance on the LP also numbering among the major highlights. “On Fyre” itself is a royal succession of unstoppably great selections, all with inventive use of major/minor chord switches, ear-bending tremolo gear, and/or relentless in-motion rhythmic sequences – sometimes all at once.

Home base for Lyres, nearly always, has been Boston, Massachusetts, where the majority of the group’s early personnel had already experienced a pretty strong taste of group life, having played a major part in one of the foremost punk-era outfits the city had earlier thrown up; they were, of course, the legendary DMZ, mighty fine purveyors of rock’n’rollin’, R&B-derived high-velocity pop action. Both DMZ and Lyres were spearheaded by lead vocalist, organ/piano player and tambourine-basher extraordinaire Jeff Conolly, whose own individual performances have a direct lineage that can be traced back to the unbridled abandonment displayed by none more so than the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis.

That the raw sonic exultations captured throughout “On Fyre” were unleashed almost thirty years ago now is quite an astonishing, terrifying statistic given that, in the here and now reality of March 2012, it’s a record that still sounds as fresh, bold, new and exciting as it did back in 1984. That’s the beauty of Lyres too, their non-applicableness to feeble time constraints. The fact that they didn’t, and still don’t, care one iota for any tawdry musical fads and fashions that come and go, serves to illuminate their timeless appeal to rock’n’roll fans and practitioners.

Lenny Helsing

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