I’ve always felt that the EP is an underused fidelity, especially in modern times. An EP can do a lot of damage in its short length. Take a look at hardcore punk staples like the Misfits’ iconic Bullet EP, or Underworld’s 12” Pearl’s Girl. They’re two EPs on opposite ends of the musical spectrum (and in terms of length), yet they’re both so incredibly groundbreaking for the scenes they represented/influenced. Sadly, it seems that EPs seem to really only sell well to the bands’ respective niches. Yet some EPs (thanks to clever marketing) become more legendary than bands’ actual LPs (i.e. Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff). Of course, when punk first arrived, EPs were a small band’s best friend thanks to “review anything” magazines like Maximum Rock and Roll and NME. One band that had found an early-EP glow, plus a regular opening gig for the Buzzcocks, was Coventry’s own powerpunks The Flys.
The Flys’ debut EP Bunch of Five was the perfect combination of Byrds-y jangle and the arrogance of the ’77 punk initiative. The album opens with the weekend anthem “Saturday Sunrise,” a mix of early The Jam and the sneer of the aforementioned Buzzcocks. Following that, we have the more New Wave-y “Love and A Molotov Cocktail,” an upbeat-yet-sad political affair that sings “Well do we miss you, yes we do/Father sends his regards to you/Will I write? Well once in a while/I’ll send my love and a Molotov cocktail.” Then we have the couch-surfing anthem “Can I Crash Here?,” a relatable twentysomethings’ song, with “Ooo-Ooo”s that recall early Weezer.
“Me and My Buddies” follows next, and packs a serious punch of nihilism and selfishness among a group of friends. It totally has the sarcastic power-pop attitude that would become a staple for bands like Supergrass and Teenage Fanclub a decade and a half later. Lastly, we have the silly funk-punk track “Just For Your Sex,” which shows the early potential this young band had. Filled with thumping bass, disco-like drums and a spazzy guitar solo, the track’s a surefire hip-shaker, and features a pre-chorus of heavy breathing that gives the song a serious sexual blast.
The band released two albums on EMI in the proceeding years, but would only release one more EP on Parlophone before disbanding shortly after. Much like many great punk bands of the heyday, they crashed the party and left too soon. Their debut Waikiki Beach Refugees found modest success, but follow-up Own was a commercial failure despite positive reviews. Co-frontman David Freeman would have cult success with his short-lived act The Lover Speaks in the mid-80s, but not much would come from other members. The band is solely a British cult act despite sharing bills with The Pretenders and Psychedelic Furs across Europe. Sadly, much like most power-pop bands, they’d end up in the “ever-heard-of…?” list, but what we’re left with is a brief but terrific discography.
Bunch of Five is a great place to start within The Flys’ discography, but the two LP releases are just as good. Bunch of Five was one of the first power-punk records, and though it may not be fully recognized, it’s quite possibly one of punk’s earliest examples of what impressive musicianship it would eventually find. EPs are always overlooked by nations full of album obsessives, but if there’s a punk-era EP that I’d nominate first as one of the finest, Bunch of Five easily takes the cake. It’s chaotic, poppy, sarcastic and sneering enough that it perfectly captures a fabulously defiant time in British history.