FIDLAR - FIDLAR
Punk rock was once this hulking, angst-ridden demon making veiny, rage-induced noises, clad in leather, studs and technicolour coiffures – it was a legendary cultural phenomenon. It was blunt in vocalising grisly taboos and the whole thing was a glorious, raucous mess. In the 70s, it was anarchic, people had things to say, not only in response to culture and society, but music on the time – it was a sonic rebellion, with thrashing guitars and rampaging four-to-the-floor percussion at the forefront, turning the world of rock'n'roll on its head and challenging ideals. You get the odd bit of confrontational punk nowadays, trying to recapture what The Clash and The Sex Pistols did forty-odd years ago, but for a growing number, Green Day are the punkiest they'll know. Let's face it, punk is dying. In the traditional sense, anyway. Even with the zombies of John Lydon and Black Flag resurfacing, it seems we'll never rekindle that revolutionary spirit of music.
Or will we? Now punk's grown up, had a haircut, donned a suit, shifted the weltschmerz and had little punky sproglings, we have something new. Not these foppy-haired posterboys who dabble in pop-punk, but proper grimy oiks like back in t' day, singing (read: yelling) about depravity, drugs and the boredom of youth. Brooding doomwavers and sulky electronica artistes (Crystal Castles et al.) have cornered the 'social commentary' by-way-of-noise aspect of punk – it's now time for the remnants with guitars to have a spot of fun.
FIDLAR are part of the new breed alongside compulsory contemporary comparisons, Wavves and Black Lips. They took Black Flag and The Descendants, threw in a pinch of early Blink-182 and just went bananas. The scuzzy LA foursome intertwine elements of 60s garage, rockabilly and surf-rock into their hedonistic potpourri, with lyrics that veer wildly between the topics of cheap cocaine and cheap beer. Sartre, they are not. But that has never been the point. Their 39 minute eponymous debut is crammed with 14 tracks, in-jokes and illegal substances; even the name FIDLAR is a reference to their Socal home (Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk, a saying apparently rife in Los Angeles skate-punk lingo). This is, and always has been about dicking around. Opener 'Cheap Beer' sums it up best with an anthemic, garbled chant of "I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! Fuck! You!"
'Stoked And Broke' is a snarling, cheeky cut with 50s rock 'n' roll licks and wailing solos. It's laden with feedback and power chords behind the thought-provoking ethos of "I wanna smoke weed until I die," and it recalls the casual violence of classic punk. 'Max Can't Surf' is about drummer Max, who can't surf. It's clearly inspired by surf-rock, with floor toms and a melodic chorus echoing The Beach Boys. It's brilliantly self-indulgent, and they don't give a toss. 'Wake Skate Bake' pretty much explains what they do. There's hoarse stabs of guttural howls and cyclic guitars pining for attention above the fuzzy ocean – it's an ode to slackerdom.
While the majority of their record is about wasting time and intoxication, there are some heavier moments (submerged beneath rapid yowls and brash punk fare). There's 'Paycheck', about the perils of addiction, 'Gimme Something', about the self-imposed entitlement of youth, allusions to the army and conscription in 'White On White' and the jilted motifs in 'Whore'. Though on the whole, this is an LP about getting utterly trashed, fucking everything in sight and snorting whatever's left, provided you haven't already blacked out puking up the remnants of Del Taco. And what of the morning after? Screw the hangover.
FIDLAR are currently getting chewed up by the hype machine, with Pitchfork and NME hailing them as the best thing since the last best thing. It's well deserved hype though – they're making great music, which despite its apparent vacuousness and vapidity is actually pretty well-constructed: there are mammoth earworms, snazzy hooks and adrenalin-fuelled sprints of kinetic guitar, draped over relentless rhythms that demand your attention and that you sacrifice your body to the music. It's not something to sit and study, FIDLAR is a record that injects movements, begs you to stand, to dance, to run and jump and drink and smoke and just not give a fuck. You could sit and analyse them, you could be all parental and worry about their health – but frankly, they don't care and neither should you; this is an album of riotous fun and raunchy debauchery, an album that symbolises a pre-career age where the here/now is king and where youth is for being young. Make mistakes, drink too much, have regrets – Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk.