Album Review - Fidlar - self-titled (January 22, 2013 on Dine Alone Records)
If you took the Beach Boys, stuck a skateboard under one arm and a cheap lukewarm beer in the other, and then added some leather and punk regalia with a salubrious dose of weed you’d… well, you’d have FIDLAR. Lead singer Zac Carper, along with frontline guitarist Brandon Schwartzel, Elvis Kuehn, and his drummer brother Max Kuehn, iconize everything there was to love and hate about the young low-budget rebel rock of the early 2000s. There’s something refreshingly brazen in FIDLAR’s newest self-titled debut album, but it’s not because they’re tackling subject matter that’s particularly novel or trying to hoist themselves into the spotlight. Whatever you’re sensing from them has more to do with the veteran all-or-nothing mentality you’d expect from a pack of down-and-out L.A. skaters. The type that peddle mottos like “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk”.
The band’s acronym underscores the liminal subculture they were all raised on, a cocktail of California anarchy and sweltering concrete. Their opening song “Cheap Beer” cuts its teeth on the opening lines with “getting f***** up on the 101 / shooting narcotics and having fun / forty beers later and a line of speed / eight-ball of blow and a half a pound of weed”. I have friends like this. They give the middle finger to cops and piss on people’s lawns.
And we love them for that, because amid the cynicism of growing up in a post-modern hell-hole on the brink of economic collapse, they’re our modern solution to a philosophy of carpe diem. Part of us wants to embrace that lifestyle (however vicariously), but another part can already feel the hangover and/or sexually transmitted disease waiting for us in the morning. Tracks like “White On White” and “Cocaine” are inoculated with a particular breed of hedonism that shakes its head at the consequences. Sometimes it’s hard to take them seriously. The frenzy of their surf-rock guitars is almost Bacchaeic. Halfway through the album you’re wondering how sustainable this level of energy can possibly be.
While they may be brash, even crude, it’s all part of the garage punk-rock scene. A genre that hyper-extends its limbs just to see how far they’ll bend back. It’s hard to say whether or not they’re pursuing some sort of ‘shock doctrine’ to get us hooked on their riffs, or if they’re actually the twisted miscreants they’re advertising – I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The band’s also released two EPs, one in 2011 and another in 2012 – “DIYDUI” markets their sardonic brand of humour, and “Don’t Try” seems to prophesize the lack of self-awareness and self-preservation we’d eventually be introduced to in their debut album. It’s hard to say what we can expect from FIDLAR in the future, but as long as they’re vigilant in their efforts to tear off the expiration dates and throttle their voices with the riotous nonchalance they’ve already demonstrated, it’s a safe bet these boys will survive the dawn. They’ll need a stiff cup of coffee to clear the cobwebs, but they’ll be there.
Check out FIDLAR’s public service announcement for “Cheap Beer”.