Surreal Zappa-esque Foolery
No one should buy No Flies on Frank because it’s a NNCK side project. Though the two bands share one core member (Jason Meagher) and two contributors (Dave Shuford, David Nuss), very little about the Coach Fingers’ first full-length can be attributed to the long-running improvisatory collective. For one thing, NNCK is nothing if not serious; Coach Fingers is one long, country-flavored giggle from start to finish.
Consider standout cut “Wakachu the Walrus”, a Dada-esque rampage through Molly Hatchet’s riff book cut with Lewis Carroll’s brand of whimsy. Wakachu is clearly one of a long line of Southern rock bad boy heros, the sort of troublemaker you might plausibly locate in a Lynyrd Skynryd song. He’s a gin-drinking, card-playing, coyote-fighting good ole boy, who admits in the song’s best lines, “Trouble seems to fit me like a hand inside a glove / It’s like pulling up to a two-ton bridge when you know you’re hauling three”. He’s probably got a tattoo or two, and he’d be a total stereotype, except that he’s a walrus.
That sort of disconnect—between the classic rock lines and the surreally disconcerting imagery—is what makes Coach Fingers such a great ride. As you’d expect, given the personnel, the quality of musicianship is quite high. Still, there’s a complete lack of self-importance here. The epically swamp-boogie-ish “Lost in the Cornmaze with the Id and the Odd” is propelled mostly by a chorus of kazoos.
There’s a sense of high intelligence at play here—a giddy silliness that, along with certain 1970s-leaning guitar lines, may remind you of Zappa (possibly the “Frank” of the title). Still, the Coach Fingers are also pretty effective when they straighten up, too, as on the lovely, very country “Miranda”. This tune, an oblique tale of a drifter, a sheriff, and a missing girl named Miranda, is lushly orchestrated by Meagher’s brother Sean, full of plaintive harmonica, strings, steel guitar, and righteous gospel piano, yet it seems like the simplest, most affecting song on the record.
By contrast, “The Drop Off”, which follows, is just the opposite, a crazy country prog romp where Edgar Winter’s keyboards bang along next to a maniacal banjo. Time signatures, tempos, keys, and moods are all in flux… just when you’ve gotten a handle on the head-pounding verse, you stumble across a sweeping Beatles-psyche chorus. It’s completely nuts, way too crowded and overstuffed with ideas, but weirdly compelling anyway.
i>No Flies on Frank is a long drunken drive down some seriously twisted country roads. Bring a friend, some weed, and a case of the giggles, and if you don’t end up in a ditch, you’ll have a hell of a time.
- "The Drop Off" MP3