THE HI-FIS SNAKES AND HI-FIS (WHCD022)

1. Tread Softly For The Sleepers

2. Here I Stand

3. Snakes And Ladders

4. Grade 'A' Girl

5. What's A Bulb

6. Calorie Ann

7. Up And Over

8. Odd Man Out

9. I'm A Box

10. You're Haunting Me

11. Uwe Aus Duisburg

12. My Cards Numbered 17

13. No Two Ways

Bonus tracks

14. London Look

15. McKillroy Is Watching You

16. I'm Not Ready For You Yet

17. Heaven Knows

18. Mickey's Monkey

19. I Get Around

20. Summer In The City

21. In The Midnight Hour

22. God Only Knows

23. Yellow Submarine

24. I'm A Box (mono single mix)

25. No Two Ways (mono single mix)

26. Snakers And Ladders (mono single mix)

27. Tread Softly For The Sleepers (mono single mix)

 

One of the finest examples of the beat-bands-go-bonkers syndrome, the psychedelic pop album Snakes and Hi-Fis was released in Germany in mid-1967 by exiled British group the Hi-Fis, and has long been established as a highly sought after rarity on the worldwide beat/psych collectors market. Bolstered by no less than fourteen bonus tracks (most of them previously unreleased) from the same timeframe, this first-ever reissue of Snakes and Hifis has been produced in conjunction with the group and features extensive liner notes and many previously unpublished photos.

"You've heard the story 234 times before and struggled through just as many rediscovered recordings of average youth club R&B… But the Hi-Fis really were different. Listening to the music before looking at the sleevenotes is a must in this game, if only for the one-in-100 CDs that defies obvious categorisation. So let's come clean and log the swirly American garage organ and stinging guitar; the intelligent, eccentric lyrical themes ('I'm A Box'; 'What's A Bulb') that lift the songs out of the ordinary, while threatening to torpedo the whole ship; the oddly propulsive backbeat that occasionally recalls those great American/German situationists The Monks; the cover of Graham Gouldman's 'London Look' set against 'Uwe Aus Duisberg'; jokey-sounding songs that get under the skin. Wow: we don't get it, but we're thrilled to be thinking Jackpots and Tages, two all-time great Anglo psych-beat bands… from Sweden. The Hi-Fis hailed from Sydenham and once held the No 1 and 4 spots in the German charts simultaneously. They recorded a brilliant mixed bag of an LP, with four real standout tracks (and 14 bonuses on this first ever CD issue)." (Record Collector)

Like a number of British acts before and after them, harmony pop outfit the Hi-Fi’s found on the Continent not only steady work but a level of notoriety that had proven elusive back home. The group decided to try their luck in Germany after the cancellation in late ’65 of a promising Fontana single ‘I’m Not Ready For You Yet’ b/w ‘Heaven Knows’ (included among the bonus tracks here), and over the following 18 months established, through residencies in venues like Tante Olga’s in Duisberg and the Star Club in Hamburg, a reputation for putting on a really good show. By the time their LP Snakes and HiFis was released on Star Club Records in June ’67, the Hi-Fi’s had scored two West German hit singles (a Clavioline-driven bit of pop surrealism called ‘I’m A Box’ and the ‘California Girls’-infused ‘Snakes and Ladders’) and were, according to a poll in Bravo magazine, the third most popular live act in the country. Considering the hastily thrown together cash-in affair it could have been, Snakes and HiFis proved instead to be a very clever piece of work indeed, and redolent of that irreverent yet optimistic vibe that characterised so much of ‘60s British pop culture, before things got painted black. Outside of a stomping cover of the Ripchords ‘Here I Stand’, the album is entirely composed of band originals, a number of them in the social satire mode, like ‘Calorie Ann’ (“she’s a health and efficiency fan”), which has a whiff of A Quick One-period Who about it, and the decidedly Revolver-ish ‘Grade A Girl’ (about an “especially good secretary”). Others are simply odd. There is, for example, ‘Up And Over’, a strange but charming number concerning “a horse that won’t jump the last fence”. Also noteworthy is the dynamite ‘Uwe Aus Duisberg’, an homage to the multitalented caretaker of the aforementioned nightclub, Tante Olga’s. Less characteristic of the album’s overall feel but cool nonetheless are ‘You’re Haunting Me’, with its suitably spooky pipe organ accompaniment and gorgeous, ‘Good Vibrations’-inspired harmonies, and ‘Tread Softly For The Sleepers’, by far the heaviest, psyched-out track of this otherwise fuzz-free album. Augmented with rehearsal tapes and related singles (including the silly yet beguiling post-album A-side ‘London Look’), Snakes and HiFis comes as one of the year’s more pleasant surprises.” (Ugly Things)

 

 

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