Sunday, 29 March 2009
Condo Fucks - Fuckbook
released 23 March 2009 on Matador
There you go, it’s official: sweary band names are cool. Hot on the heels of Fucked Up and Fuck Buttons - both of whom made No Ripcord’s Top 50 Albums of 2008 list - come Condo Fucks. But despite the name, they’re not Satanic grindcore merchants or day-glo nu-rave upstarts from Leeds, they are in fact the band we all know as Yo La Tengo.
Back in 1997, Yo La Tengo released I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One which inside, featured references to back catalogues of various fictional bands, supposedly on Matador. As well as G.I. Joe Extreme and The Shitheels, there was the Condo Fucks. They’ve invented a back story and given themselves new noms de plume: Georgia Condo, Kid Condo and James McNew. Oh, guys, stop it, our aching sides. Seriously, did these guys learn nothing from Garth Brooks? Yo La Tengo’s last album, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, proved they were adept at myriad musical genres and they released a semi-covers album in 1990 entitled Fakebook, so why the need for the new identity?
Although it remains a fairly unimaginative stunt, the pseudonym makes more sense once you actually listen to the record. While Yo La Tengo are full of imagination and style, Condo Fucks are akin to a high school garage band. In fact, forget that, they’re the best high school garage band you’ve ever heard and one you’ll wish you were in. Fuckbook is the sound of a band with a quarter of a century’s experience really getting back to basics and rediscovering why they fell in love with music in the first place. There’s no studio polish and no second takes; everything is recorded as live (each track starts with a count in, just to reinforce that point) and the vocals sit so low in the mix, they’re all but indecipherable.
While as a general rule albums with little production where you can’t hear the words aren’t to be recommended, to hold that against Fuckbook would be kind of missing the point. Condo Fucks take their cue from the pantheon of garage punk greats, all the way from The Stooges and MC5 right up to The White Stripes and The Black Keys. However, the choice of songs (all the tracks are covers) is more indebted to classic pop of the 1960s, such as The Kinks and The Beach Boys.
Make no mistake, this is a rollercoaster thrill ride of an album, but the line between distortion and feedback heavy garage band and unlistenable wall of noise is a thin one, and one they very nearly cross on Accident. Happily, that’s the exception rather than the rule, and Condo Fucks rip through the rest of the set with the zip and vim of teenagers, adding a surf and bubblegum twist to each number as they go.
Opening track What’cha Gonna Do About It (originally by The Small Faces) races along on a buzzsaw riff reminiscent of The White Stripes’ Black Math. A cover of The Kinks’ This Is Where I Belong is so steeped in drone it’s practically no-wave and their version of The Beach Boys’ Shut Down (parts 1 and 2) is full of life and a treat for the ears. The real highlight, however, is Condo Fucks’ take on With A Girl Like You by The Troggs. Georgia Hubley (sorry, Georgia Condo) takes lead vocals and her restraint twinned with the ‘ba ba bahs’ of the backing vocals turns the song into an understated pop gem.
Not very subtly attempting to re-launch your band may be a fairly questionable idea but it’s all academic in the end; no matter what the name on the front is, there’s no doubt that this is a great album. It’s brave to attempt a whole album in a style you’re not known for so long into your career - it’s not something you can see U2 doing any time soon. Fuckbook is a fantastic, energy-fuelled riot of an album and - if you wish to view it as such - yet another brilliant addition to the embarrassment of riches that is the collected works of Yo La Tengo.