When I first announced the artists that would be part of my Class of 2013, I basically promised that it would be even better than my Class of 2012. You could say that I had high hopes for all of these ten artists, and much to my chagrin, they actually delivered this year. There was plenty of action to be found, and plenty of profiles raised to new heights of popularity and stardom. It’s amazing to think that not only did virtually everyone improve their stature in the music world, but about half of them released full lengths that made my Top 50 Albums of 2013 list, not to mention many others’. In short, I’m exceptionally proud of the work all of these artists did over the last year, and invite you to join me now for a quick recap of what they did across 2013.
FIDLAR sound like a band you’ve heard before. They are not deeply original, and by that same token are not trying to be. It’s almost ironic that though their name is an acronym for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk,” they take very few of them in their actual music. This is skate punk at its blissfully ignorant core, content to get by on sheer energy and force. You don’t listen to this sort of thing for nuance, but instead for the heavy-hitting guitar riffs that speed past at a thousand miles per hour, the angry sneer in the singer’s voice and how almost every melody makes you want to smash into something. This is music that demands you get busy living or get busy dying. It’s brash, it’s snotty, and it doesn’t give a fuck what you or I think because you’re not supposed to be thinking in the first place. Sometimes you need a record like this to clear your head and shove all the pent up emotions out of your body. The release is nice, but once you get past that, is there anything left worth writing home about? That’s ultimately the true test of a good punk band – whether or not you can move beyond cliche and towards something deeper and better. For their self-titled debut album, FIDLAR only partially succeed at making that magic happen.
Let’s start with the song titles on this album, because they pretty much tell you everything you need to know up front. There are songs about drinking (“Cheap Beer” and “Blackout Stout”), drugs (“Wake Bake Skate” and “Cocaine”), surfing (“No Waves” and “Max Can’t Surf”) and being broke or having a low paying job (“Stoked and Broke,” “5 to 9” and “Paycheck”). There are even a couple songs about the military (“White on White”) and women (“Whore”) in there for good measure. If these guys were a little younger, they’d probably have included a few songs about high school and how much it sucks. Then again, The Ramones, who have a little stylistic similarity to FIDLAR, had no trouble writing about Rock n’ Roll High School well into their 20s. So it’s all a matter of personal preference, really. If a track like “No Waves” calls to mind Nathan Williams’ band Wavves both in title and sound, it may be a somewhat unintentional coincidence but more likely is a sly wink and nod to their friend and future touring partner. The fuzzy digital mess that the guitars make on most tracks is definitely lifted from Wavves, though just about every other aspect of FIDLAR’s music can be considered old school punk rock in the vein of Gun Club, Descendents, Circle Jerks and Fear. There are still plenty of bands out there trying to mine from that exact same cave, but few fare quite so well as these guys, which at the very least tells you they’re doing something right in the studio and on stage. That, and they know their influences backwards and forwards, meaning that behind all these live fast and die young songs there’s actual intelligence and intention.
While FIDLAR’s self-titled debut may be smarter than your average punk record, it also falls into some traps and cliches that make you wish they’d thought some parts through a little more. I mean, songs about drinking, drugs, surfing and being broke can only take you so far, right? When the chorus to “Cheap Beer” comes in and amounts to a shouted, “I / Drink / Cheap / Beer / So / What / Fuck / You,” you can’t help but wonder if they could do just a little bit better than that. Sure, it’s memorable, and I’m sure it becomes a shout-along in concert at a rapid-fire pace, but perhaps the level of discourse could be just a little less lowest common denominator. There’s definitely an undercurrent of darkness and maybe even depression at the heart of some of these songs that are indicated in the lyrics, and that’s certainly interesting even though they tend to glide right over it to get back to partying most of the time. In some weird sense, this record is a kindred spirit with Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet, one of the most single-minded but subversively brilliant records of the last couple decades. FIDLAR haven’t quite found their ideal mixture of insanity and perfection just yet, but the earnestness and youthful energy they bring to every second of this album absolutely makes them a band to keep your eye on.
FIDLAR – White On White
FIDLAR – Gimmie Something