Music Reviews


(Mom & Pop) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Could’ve it been that punks used to take themselves too seriously? One could only imagine what someone like Richard Hell would have to say about how our current political climate has set off two very diverse sets of classes: those scraping with a thankless dead end job, wishing the mid-shift were over to head into a busted garage; and on the other side of the spectrum there’s those who parade the aesthetic value of artificiality, able to afford the luxury of ruffling their jeans up and practicing gestures in front of a mirror before going on a mission to impress a few hipsters. Back then, Hell’s message about the blank generation held a lot of weight: it was about an unwillingness to settle for society’s prejudices, opting to choose freedom of expression to be whoever, and whatever you want. There’s no question that there’s still a lot of aggression and playfulness in punk, but it hasn’t created as much as impact as it used to, and it probably never will. But it’s hard to associate the new class of misfits as prospective street poets, those who howl at a disaffected crowd with their tattered fruit of the loom t’s instead of a tailored leather jacket.

California punks FIDLAR have their heart in the right place – they’re a rambunctious bunch that doesn’t seem to worry about a whole lot. And who could blame them – one could be entitled to rile against anything, or go for complete apathy, even without ever experiencing life’s toughest vicissitudes. Except that the one and only significance they have lies in their emblematic acronym (Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk), which adopts the very punk sentiment of making a statement with a savvy catch phrase. Making any progress requires the courage to initiate, to accept that sometimes the trials life brings are genuinely fucked up but you step up with the crutches. The explicit rebellion in FIDLAR is that of careless detachment, of donning the drunk medal with pride, committing petty crimes like loitering and doing lines of coke to circumvent a day that was such a bummer. And even if the intent were simply to have some unsupervised fun, there’s nothing inherently implicit in the songs themselves to justify their mired outlook on life, let alone advise others that their foolhardy behavior leads to making any real difference. They present themselves as mindless buffoons, but at least they choose to be with pride; in that respect, Hell would’ve been proud.

Even if they’re too lazy to actually compile it, FIDLAR does have a step of guiding principles, which almost reads like a twelve step program for unfairly treated juvies. The first comes in the form of Cheap Beer, a searing, all-in-good fun surf rock anthem that conjures the image of four dudes bobbing their heads down the impoverished neighborhood of Alvarado as they proclaim their veneration for the pleasures of, well, cheap beer. They voraciously exclaim their love of it over some crude, squealing distortion, with a call-and-response tactic that stresses a myopic generalization of youth; nonetheless, it depicts a time-honored ritualism that renders with poignant ubiquity. Prepare to hear it religiously at all of their shows for the rest of their lives. The British-blues influenced White on White is surprisingly refined, and quite possible their best, a grease-stained, rock n’ roll trip down memory lane that fully earns its wailing, five second solos. It’s childishly nonconformist, a cry of desperation to the rigors of becoming a man. And that’s quite possibly the only personal issue FIDLAR find worth rebelling against, as the irascibly unhinged sugary pop of No Waves and the neurotically aggressive buzzsaw-pop of Wake Bake Skate play out in the mind of someone whose right in the midst of a cocaine-induced freak out; it should also be noted that both tracks directly reference the use of cocaine, usually versed as a way to pacify any everyday fixations.

One can’t shake the sheer theatricality that encompasses most of FIDLAR, and the thrashy, snarly guitar breaks only reinforce a glammed-up image that comes close to pop-metal posturing, sans the sleazy tales of debauchery. They usually helm more of a touch-skinned attitude in Whore, which features a plethora of raucous guitar licks over a bluesy afflux that comes across as a dirtier, caffeinated version of current-day Green Day. But for every skuzzy, unvarnished garage romp there’s the more convivial, freewheeling side like in 5 to 9, a lively, 70-second fun affair that manages to recount a late-night county hopping trip that starts promising at Sunset and unfortunately ends with a trip to the slammer. And so it goes with the thematically one-note FIDLAR, which lumps together the irresponsible hijinks of four skate punks that are fueled with determination, but don’t have the smarts to convert their tedium into something compelling. There’s no impetus for nihilism because they live in times of compromise and partisan domination, nor is there a necessity to be fiery and idealistically righteous because they simply don’t have a stance on anything. All that it has going for it is the promise of adolescent wit, and even in that regard it completely fails to deliver. It just provides a couple of self-loathing lulz to harness the impulse of the meme generation machine.