Monday, 16 May 2011

So Scratched into our Souls #1: Fuckboyz - Rock and Roll Problem

This is a new series I have decided to start for those times where I really just want to talk about how much one specific song just fucking rules.

Fuckboyz are a band generally known today (if they are even known at all, which usually they're not) because they featured Matty Luv, later of Hickey. Hickey are the best band ever, and I plan on explaining exactly why that is at a later date, but for now I'm gonna focus on this particular Fuckboyz song, because it proves that they weren't just a dry-run for the sloppy chaotic majesty of Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever), like The Lazer with Bent Outta Shape, they may not have quite developed the amazing sound that made me fall in love with them but they've still got plenty of pure talent and the ability to write some great fucking punk rock.

The closest song I can think of to Rock and Roll Problem is the Dead Kennedys' Pull My Strings, but Pull My Strings doesn't really work on its own. It's a broad juvenalian satire more than an actual song, the context of the song is what makes it so amazing. Their one-time performance of it at the Bay area music awards is one of the most punk rock things anyone has ever done, informed socio-cultural outrage distilled into noisy and hilarious blunt critique delivered right in the face of people who want you to conform. In fact the only thing I can think that was comparable in the realms of sheer punk rockness is the Voodoo Glow Skulls split by Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever). But as I said, I'm not sure Pull My Strings works without its context. DK never recorded it in a studio or even played it again, and I think that was entirely the right decision. It's a song built on the combination of history and place, like Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. More an artifact of an attitude perfectly expressed than something to love for its actual sound. Rock and Roll Problem is not like Pull My Strings, in that it works as a completely great song on its own, but it is like Jello's finest hour (yes, Pull My Strings is even finer than destroying Tipper Gore on the Oprah Winfrey show) in that its a broad parody of mainstream rock and roll which has a completely awesome solo in the middle of it.

The solo is interesting, in both these songs, as the point of it seems to be, "Look, we're not playing punk rock music because we can't play anything else. We're playing punk rock music because we love punk rock music." Now I love punk rock music that springs from the inability to play anything more complex, but the idea that those are its only practitioners is completely false. I love punk rock music because of how it sounds, its attitude, its politics, its intelligence, its stupidness, its speed, its rhythm, its power. A whole fucking host of other reasons, not just its simplicity.

A good instrumental or solo is really great. And I'm not talking about the self-indulgent aural masturbation of a prog rock keyboard marathon, not the heavy rock drum solos of the early 70s played only to show off how many beats someone can play, described by my dad (a big fan of that era and sound) as bands helpfully working in toilet breaks into their set. What I'm talking about is a section of a song, however brief or extended, that takes the thrust of the song and carries it forward without words, that recognises that there are times when a sensation is wordless, when, no matter how important the words are, the reason we're listening to the song is because of the verve and manner with which they're delivered. You can hear all the squealing fun of the Toy Dolls jokey lyrics in Olga's guitar solos, all the cross-cultural anger in the bounce of a Cobra Skulls bridge. Just any fucking good song, really. That's pretty much what good pop music is, the perfect marriage between music and lyrics, form and function, style and content. And in Rock and Roll Problems you can hear all the pissy anger, driving rock and roll and satirical sniping at Lynyrd Skynyrd and their ilk all rolled into that searing solo which is at first insistent and before rising into a real wailing crescendo, dropping back again to let the bass bumble about for a bit, before kicking back in briefly before the music drops down to its simplest for the final lyrics of the song.

The lyrics are a great mixture of a rock music macho parody and punk rock posturing. It begins "I've got a girlfriend and it's alright. sometimes we get along and sometimes we fight. sometimes I think I dig her but I'm not really sure. if she's different from the others or she's just another whore." It's not just a satire on the excesses of rock music, but pointing out that the dumbness of punk rock lyrics isn't really particularly special, that transplanted into a mid-tempo rock anthem they might be just as tired and stupid, but there it kind of fails, because it's such a good rock song makes you want to sing along to the studiedly dumb lyrics like "I've got a guitar that won't stay in tune. I've got a car that won't run and a cool tattoo. some people think I'm stupid and some people think I'm not. some people want to meet me in the parking lot. gabba gabba hey let's make a bomb. will you suck me off if I play you this song?" and then after all the solo when it drops back to the stark simple beat and the back-up singer starts screaming the lyrics with throat-burning intensity behind the simple enunciation of the lead singer it's a really thrilling moment, instilling genuine emotion into the line "What does it mean when I say I'm in love? Does it mean anything at all?" which works both as an honest self-examination and as a commentary on the cheapness of emotion in rock music. The persuasively good nature of the music means that even as you realise it's stupid you still want to spend all you money on alcohol and spray paint, and paint this city black. You still want to steal a car and drive to the world's end and jump right in the sea. It's an amazing song that can jump between singing along to some ironic statement about the dearth of well-characterised women in all rock music, to spouting punk rock non-sequiturs that you've romanticised and built up all your life (it's got a Ramones slogan, and an apparent reference to the time Joe Strummer got arrested in Germany) and sort of point out the lack of real distinction between the two, but also leave you sure of the parts of rock and roll you love, and the parts that piss you off. It's fucking complicated, but above all that, it's an amazing song that maintains its tension perfectly over its seven minute runtime and you can't help but bounce and sing and play air guitar along to it, like the worst rock cliché in the world. There are problems with most rock and roll and we've all got a rock and roll problem.

Also, it ends on the line 'If I leave here tomorrow' and we all know where that's going. This is the song that bands should play when dickheads request Freebird.

Like all Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever) and Fuckboyz songs, it's available here.

Rock and Roll Problem


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