The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
Fidlar - 'Fidlar'
There’s beer, bongs, Black Flag and blues on the LA punks’ party-starting debut. But no sign of that Kate Nash collab…
As well as recording their debut album themselves in frontman Zac Carper’s Highland Park studio/live-in party space, Fidlar spent last year almost constantly on the road, touring with The Hives, Delta Spirit and Jeff The Brotherhood and inspiring legions of fans across the globe to profess their love via DIY stick’n’poke tattoos. Before that, they paid their dues on the LA band scene, with brothers Max and Elvis Kuehn starting young and rocking out as teenagers in The Diffs. They opened up for their heroes Circle Jerks and Adolescents, and went on to play with Zac in local band Kitten, while bassist Brandon Schwartzel did time with Rooney – for which he is forgiven.
So even though on first listen ‘Fidlar’ might come across as merely the sound of some dudes with a four-track and a six-pack, there’s plenty on these 14 songs to suggest there’s a mightily impressive record collection over at Fidlar HQ. The evil, chugging surf guitar on opener ‘Cheap Beer’ gets into the same demon groove favoured by ’80s LA grot-blues champions The Gun Club, while nods to the Beastie Boys’ ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’ are impossible to ignore, in both the sonics and the sentiment. The Clash and The Ronettes make themselves known in ‘LDA’, and the thundering ‘Wait For The Man’ is a more refined take on the hardcore sounds Black Flag were making over 30 years ago in nearby Hermosa Beach.
So far, so unsurprising, but their influences span a mass of decades and genres. Fuzzed-up, spat-out vocals aside, ‘Gimme Something’ is pure classic rock. That the track’s video is made up entirely of cut-up live clips of Creedence Clearwater Revival is no coincidence: the song has a swampy blues swagger that John Fogerty’s Delta-diggers would be proud of; likewise the twanging Southern soul intro to ‘Black Out Stout’.
Zac surrenders vocal duties to Elvis for ‘Whore’, where chiming guitars pave the way for the sound of a wronged and very angry man. Sure, it’s not the most eloquent put-down ever directed at a former lover, but most people don’t walk around quoting William Blake when they discover someone’s cheated on them. Swearing normally comes first, then – depending on character – the throwing of things, or sobbing quietly into a pillow. Whatever your take on the language used here, it’s impossible to deny the cathartic effect of calling your ex horrible names. It’s followed by the lighter ‘Max Can’t Surf’, a piss-taking paean to the Fidlar drummer’s love of smokes, weed, Mexican fast food, lie-ins, dubstep and video games, neatly tied up with a gutter Beach Boys chorus.
Consistently on-point, the only thing that lets the record down is the failure to include last year’s brilliantly bratty Kate Nash collaboration ‘Awkward’. Though recorded after the album sessions, that the ’90s punk-pop-referencing gem wasn’t retrospectively squeezed onto the album is a perplexing move. Without it, ‘Fidlar’ is still an electrifying, intensely fun album. But with it, it would have been perfect.
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