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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Fun Police

Clown Control

Review by Larry Toering

This little band from the northwest is much bigger than meets the eye, as they are a rather complex mixture of musicians with a certain amount of authenticity not always found in the psychobilly genre.  Psychobilly is more or less what they are all about, with a mix of other flavors complete with banjo and fiddle. Other unusual instruments in use to round out the width of their range include accordion and flute. One can easily predict the energy of their live act, as it can likely do no wrong in translation to the stage. When this disc arrived I was taken completely by surprise at how genuinely great this collection of tunes really is.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Pretty Good Friend

The instant rockabilly mixed with fiddle vibe rings of comical overkill at first, but it winds up seriously ferocious by the time it ends. There is nothing left to expect but much more of the same as the disc continues. That’s what an opening number is really supposed to do. If one doesn’t get it already, it’s too late for the rest, as this approach purposely sets up the whole thing very well.

Unemployment
This starts off with a very similar acoustic riff. After the first set of lyrics it goes into an insane bridge that is so familiar sounding I can’t put my finger on where it came from, but it’s definitely derived from something well known. I stopped trying to figure that after a few listens because it’s just so incredibly infectious that it doesn’t seem to matter where it may have originated. A real barn burner, this one is. It’s very hard not to enjoy this tune, and the subject matter is just one of those things to which nearly everyone can relate. This is just too commanding to deny.
Far Away
More of a reggae approach is applied here but soon that is over and it’s back to more of a ska influence. It comes complete with all the craziness that makes this such a great disc. Territories are shouted about, while in the end there is always a longing for home. This is yet another funny song that just fits so well with the whole clowning around theme.
Dark Clown
This is a bit more on the interesting side, and the vocals probably nod more to Reverend Horton Heat on this one. That is a welcomed wrinkle for me, as one can never use too much heat. The influence is definitely felt, but not copied or anything. There’s just a hint of that sort of humor and overall attitude.
Pho King
Strings are brought up to a more notable level on this hilarious little tune about Pho. It comes complete with a very welcomed background vocal from female percussionist Veteran V. Dub.
Trouble
This, like trouble itself, doesn’t excite me like most everything else going on here, as it contains a more profane approach. However, not all is lost, because it still rocks hard and it’s a killer backing track with a lot of fantastic guitar work. There is no harm in all the fun, just a lack of accessibility because of it. Let’s just say it’s safe to believe this wouldn’t get them any airplay, but for some that’s about as irritating as not finding their socks in the morning.
The Covenant
Moving right along, the humor continues to increase while the creativity loses nothing in the process. Lots of laughs are here, but that is most abundant throughout by now, and obviously the whole idea.
Chinese Surf
Talk about hilarious, juice harp is featured amongst the killing laughter. It’s all very clever. Although, this stands apart from most of the material here, it works. It’s another interesting track to say the least.
Dandelions & Gold
This has a nice groove to it. It features a less outgoing vibe, and more of a narrative vocal. It’s rather understated compared to its surrounding tracks, giving way to a more orthodox outcome. The guitar lead here is a soothing one, and the vocal playful, but a tad serious at the same time. It’s great stuff, but then all of it is.
Little Maggie
The clowning never stops, as I was almost clowned myself here. It’s rather confusing when the track list inside the cover doesn’t follow the actual running order, as this is listed as track eleven, but is actually track ten when you play the CD. This might be a clowning of their own on the listener. I don’t know, but if so I certainly have been clowned. Nevertheless it’s yet another great number. But there is no reading of the title in the disc player, just the track number, so anyone would be confused until they sort this out.
Rodeo Clown
This is another crazy tune in the same vein as most of the disc, with a more yodeling style vocal and an appropriate amount of fiddle. There’s a killer banjo solo, accompanied by an even amount of guitar and a hilarious chorus and a bull horn sounding verse. The consistency by now is so strong. It’s simply impressive, and this is about the biggest number instrumentally, as well.
Road Trip
More fun has the listener threatening to cough up a lung once more.  The speed is turned up a notch, and they go into thrash mode.
Dumpster Diving
This is an appropriate way to end such a funny, yet seriously strong, blend of songwriting and musicianship. There’s a taste of a Dropkick Murphy approach, along with a complete shift in the vibe toward the end as it goes down a dark alley. Things get almost confusing though,  as it has a three in one track effect which is near clowning as much as whatever  is going on with track eleven. I recommend the disc for this track alone. However, without hearing the rest, it doesn’t stand up as well because it’s a concept thing concerning the whole clown factor, and it all ends with a hypnotist’s order.
 
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