This third album from Fingerprintz came out in 1981, just about the time we discovered the band. It’s hard to say how hard it was to get information about non-mainstream music acts at the time. Rolling Stone wasn’t giving this kind of music much attention, and I wasn’t giving Rolling Stone much attention. Trouser Press was a more reliable source of at least mentions of bands like Fingerprintz – in fact, I’ve found that every one of their albums was at least mentioned in TP – but it wasn’t easy to find in Syracuse. Reading the brief review there for “Distinguishing Marks” would not have sent me running to the record store. Another option, New Music Express (NME), was a costly import that I sometimes splurged for but which was, again, hard to come by.
That’s all a long way of saying that even if I had known about Fingerprintz before my roommate randomly dragged back one of their records from a summer in Boston, I had no way of knowing anything more about them. We didn’t know how many records they had made, whether they were going to make more, anything.
Finding a review of Beat Noir in an old issue of Trouser Press (one I know I didn’t buy at the time), I can only be amused by the opening of the review, because it perfectly echoed my feelings:
“Shit! That’s the sound of frustration. How long can a band continue releasing brilliant albums in the face of critical and popular indifference?”
Gotta say the reviewer, Scott Isler, really knew what he was talking about, too. “Fingerprintz has always gone for dark, moody (sometimes even murky) textures and feelings, a sure beat and fetching melodies.” Yeah, they have. He also noted that this record represented a shift in style, which was also true, as some of it gets much closer to dance style beats on songs like “Catwalk” and “Shadowed,” and yet there’s that weird haunting danger in “Touch Sense” and the incredible “Changing.”
“Changing” was the song from this album that really hit me between the eyes. It’s 1982. Romance has been up and down, volatile, uncertain. (Spoiler: we got through it.) I am a drunken disaster, approaching my final semesters of college, finishing a degree I don’t believe in and don’t have much intention of pursuing, completely uncertain what the future will be like. (Spoiler: I got through it.) And “Changing” described what was happening: “Did you want to avoid / this talking slide show / as if I didn’t know / Lies don’t evaporate.” “Taxi’s waiting / what’s he waiting for / You’re busy / Changing.” It broke my heart, because it felt so very true.
This was the end for the band, although the core would re-emerge as The Silencers some time later.