By Scott Creney
Last year, Everett predicted that this band would be on the cover of every major music magazine in 2013. Who’s A Fuzzy Buddy suggests he may have underestimated them (it goes without saying that he overestimated the music press).
Every time I listen to this album, I hear something new. It’s kind of freaking me out. I’m not used to this. At this point in the 21st Century, and at this point in my musical life, nearly every album I hear sounds familiar, recognizable — whether I like the music or not. The Bastards Of Fate have managed the rarest of feats. They have recorded an album that doesn’t sound like anyone else in the world.
Sure there are reference points — Dismemberment Plan, Beefheart, Flipper, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Nabokov, Brian Eno, Café Tacuba, Borges, Skullflower, Burt Bacharach, and a million more — but all of them are useless. You try to define The Bastards Of Fate, you attempt to explain them, but they squirm away like an anchovy in the bait tank. It’s a mix of beauty and ugliness. The band is constantly subverting themselves, pushing their music beyond understanding. It’s fucking beautiful.
The melodies, when they arrive, are breathtaking, original, catchy. Melodies to make you swoon. Melodies to make you weep. At the end of ‘Huge Magic’, when the band plays the song out in a series of La-La-La’s, my heart beats faster, it wells up in my chest, and it all feels somehow incredibly important even though what is actually being said in the moment is, as far as actual concrete meaning is concerned, fairly trivial. In this sense, The Bastards Of Fate are pop.
The lyrics are moving; they contain stories of isolation and agony, told with humor, style, and wit. The album speaks in riddles and labyrinths. There are love songs to space heaters and parking meters, empowering tales of emotional archaeology, people attempting to hide in shadows even as they try to escape from their own, third-person characters and first-person self-evisceration. The album ends on a question, endlessly repeated, a door with a window in its frame that leaves the listener staring out into the world. In this sense, The Bastards Of Fate are literature.
Noise enters when you least expect it. Huge cacophonous swirls of white sound that make it impossible for me to play this at work, not without risking complaints. The album is rife with sonic experimentation. Not content to merely sing and play about agony, songs dissolve into the sound of actual agony. They have a song called ‘Harlequin Fetus’ that sounds exactly as demented as its title implies. Somewhere Genesis P-Orridge is kicking himself that he never put those two words next to each other. In this sense, The Bastards Of Fate are avant-garde.
The songs are coherent, they hold together and proceed in a linear fashion through the standard verse-chorus-bridge structure. You can dance to The Bastards Of Fate. You can thrash yourself around the room. The first song features a prominent, bluesy harmonica. The music is cathartic, easy enough to digest once you’ve heard it a couple of times. The average song is between three and four minutes. In this sense, The Bastards Of Fate are rock.
In every sense, The Bastards Of Fate are special. They are tightrope walkers running between floors along the banister, resolving the contradictions between structure & chaos, the rational and the uncanny, the need to be loved v. the desire to repel. And they do it by moving too fast to pin down, by always staying one step ahead. By being all things at once, The Bastards Of Fate manage to contain a universe within their music. This is not as easy as it sounds. Most bands that tried this would end up sounding like a fucking mess. Ultimately, it’s the melody — no matter how much the band might fuck with them, they’re nearly always there, and always uplifting — that offers a payoff to the discord. But then it’s the discord that keeps the melody from being just a melody, just one more hook, one more commercial to try and get you to buy something.
Who’s A Fuzzy Buddy keeps spinning like this, faster and faster between its contradictions, in a huge circle so powerful it creates its own orbit, its own gravitational force.
The live show is theatrical, yet raw. It is warm, yet intimidating. It is out of control, yet great fun. It is as original as the album.
About 10 years ago, some unexpected sounds started coming out of New York City. It’s easy to forget that people were initially surprised that all this Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, TV On the Radio, DFA, Liars, et al was actually coming out of Brooklyn (hip-hop aside, the NYC music world hadn’t produced a whole lot throughout the 90s, and around the turn of the century people didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what was going on there). Nowadays, if I hear a new band from NYC, I can pretty much guarantee it’s going to sound like something I’ve already heard a million times, wearing their obvious influences on their overpriced sleeves.
The Bastards Of Fate are from Roanoke, Virginia. A year ago, the arrival of a new department store was front page news in their local paper. They didn’t move there to become stars. They grew up there. Considering that no one in New York City has released an album this original in at least a year, maybe all those transplants should have stayed where they were in the first place. Or maybe they should move to Roanoke. At the very least, the rent’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Predicting the future of music is a fool’s game, but it isn’t hard to imagine The Bastards Of Fate as the tip of some kind of iceberg — or to approach the metaphor from another direction, as a type of fulcrum. It wouldn’t surprised me in the least to see cool and interesting bands start poppin up in all sorts of unlikely places, raised on a steady diet of isolation and internet access, making all kinds of surprising music. The next great band is more likely to come out of Iowa City than New York City. Count on it. Keep your ears tuned to the small towns. The future of music is living in South Dakota.
The Bastards Of Fate are the missing link between everything that’s come before them, and everything that will come after. But for now they are here. If you want to hear something new, something different that still scratches you in all the right places, a cluttered psychedelic, cleanly-produced attack that knows how to make you purr, that is filled with hate but has love at its center, you owe it to yourself to go buy this album.