Arts album review

Growing pains

FIDLAR’s sophomore album is relatable, but most songs are dull

7546 fidlartoo
Zac Carper, Brandon Schwartzel, Elvis Kuehn, and Max Kuehn are FIDLAR.




Mom + Pop Music

September 4, 2015

I go through music phases in bursts, and I make monthly playlists that reveal my brief obsessions. This past July, I went through a particularly angsty music stage — I was full of political discontent (I had just reviewed the anti-capitalist band Desaparecidos, so they were on this playlist too), I was working two jobs, and life was just, in general, monotonous. Needless to say, I identified with a lot of punk rock sentiments: desire to fight the man, weariness of the nine-to-five, eagerness to party (though my packed schedule and never-ending to-do list didn’t allow for it, so I had to live vicariously), and the simple need to do something just for fun.

FIDLAR’s lyrics aren’t very insightful; in fact they are often crude with a touch of cliche (“I drink cheap beer so what, fuck you”). I didn’t like all of their songs, but the ones I loved, I loved for their ranty nature, their catchiness, and their rowdiness. I must have listened to “Max Can’t Surf,” “Cheap Beer,” and “Gimmie Something” over 100 times that month. These tracks were my favorites off of the FIDLAR’s debut album of the same name, which was released in January 2013. The band released Too last week, and I was eager to comb through it with hopes of discovering a few new favorite tracks.

If you do a thematic comparison between their first and second album, it’s obvious from the lyrics that the band has matured on a personal level. They’ve gone from emphasizing binge drinking and drug use to writing tracks about growing up and getting clean, even though they claim that “life just sucks when you get sober” in a song aptly and succinctly named “Sober.” That’s not to say the band has gone completely straight edge, though (“I don’t care at all/ I’ll drink some alcohol”); they still have rebellious tracks (perhaps lacking in imagination as far as song titles go) such as “Leave Me Alone” and “Punks.” In some songs, the lyrics are critical of society and full of millennial anxiety: “How the hell are you supposed to know/ how to live in the 21st century/ when every move you make/ everyone can see?”

As with the first album, not all of the songs were good or memorable, but there were a couple that will make their way onto my September playlist. I liked the catchy lyrics and vocal distortion in “Bad Habits” and the vocal variation and social commentary of “Why Generation.” But most of the other songs had sloppy and uninspired lyrics that weren’t interesting enough to make up for their pitfalls. The tracks fit the theme of the album but ultimately missed the mark.

The band experimented with new musical elements, only some of which were successful. For example, I liked the twangy guitar on “Bad Habits,” and the electronic sounds in “Overdose” reminded me of a carnival, which I thought was an interesting departure from beachy drumrolls and punky guitar solos. However, some of the songs included awkward and boring spoken-word type beginnings and endings, which I found off-putting and out of place. FIDLAR reminds me of Sum 41 and Blink 182 with their punk-anthem songs that have the types of guitar riffs and choruses that get stuck in your head. But FIDLAR definitely has its own sound — some songs are mellow with a beach music feel, while others have shredding guitar, heavy drums, and are filled with whiny screaming.

I got just what I wanted and expected from the album — a few songs that I’ll probably listen to regularly for a while, and that’s sort of the only way I’ll enjoy this album: in fragments. If you listen straight through, you know exactly what the band was trying to get at with this LP as they club you over the head with it. They’ve grown up, they still like to party, but they’ve toned it down: being young and broke and confused sucks. It attempts to form a narrative, but if you stick to the story in order and in full, the album is dull and borderline trite. Sure, the songs seemed to have more lyrical depth, but those weren’t the types of songs I grew to love from the band.

I would expect their live performance to be lively and energetic, and the Los Angeles band is playing at Boston Calling — for the uninitiated, Boston Calling is a three-day music festival that occurs during the fall and spring in downtown Boston — which is running Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27.