Fergus & Geronimo Funky was the State of Affairs(Hardly Art) Buy it from Insound
Funky was the State of Affairs is a concept album, but it’s also garage rock, so refreshingly, it doesn’t intellectualise its concept. It’s full of short, silly songs from the perspective of some slacker aliens visiting Earth, commenting upon Earthling Men and Earthling Women, and escaping dystopian oppression.
The band do their best to work in as many influences as possible, which they manage to wear on their sleeves while sounding effortlessly original. Although their previous album (while similarly stylistically varied) was rooted more in lo-fi indie rock, Funky harks back mostly to late-70s post-punk, particularly the funkier wonkiness of Wire, The Slits, Pere Ubu etc. Tracks like Roman Tick and Marky Move (a Television allusion?) with its James Chance-y sax skronk, typify the off-kilter energy of those classic bands. Off The Map is just a minute long but crams in one of many catchy-as-hell basslines, James Brown-style horns, and a cheerleadery chorus. But they remind me most of genre-hungry lo-fi stalwart R Stevie Moore – they share his ear for melody as well as his tendency to lack self-regulation. So there are hints of psych, jazz, synthpop, as well as ambient tape noise experiments (The Uncanny Valley in particular), and even elevator music (Wiretapping Muzak).
The sci-fi element comes in the album’s spoken-word skits, which are important than your usual disposable hip-hop skits. It’s about half high-school level social commentary and half stoned apolitical goofiness. And this comes across quite literally in the triple simultaneous pitch-altered monologues of The Roman Stuff is Where it’s At (which works much better than it sounds): the right channel mumbles “I took Nova Scotian numerals as my second math in school… I for – I forgot it all, if you don’t use em, you just forget em, you know… but the Roman stuff’s where it’s at”, while the left rants about police copters and “clone drones”, underneath a megaphone blaring out propaganda in the middle.
The result is something inscrutable, never quite pieced together. It’s a piss-take, but it’s a creative and consistent piss-take. You get a good feel for how much fun they had when they recorded it (always the most important thing for garage rock!) but it’s scatterbrained and brief.
And that brevity is another virtue. I personally struggle with concept albums, but the themes and ideas on Funky never really demand any interpretive efforts, it’s just like a Trash Humpers-esque sketchy artefact from some fictional scuzzy sci-fi future. If you’re baked enough to get on board with it, it’s probably amazing – but even without the daft skits this is enjoyably feckless genre-hopping stuff. It does sound a bit purposeless sometimes, but then it never gets boring or strained – yet one wonders if they’ll be a bit more ambitious next time round.10 August, 2012 - 14:56 — Stephen Wragg