Do you remember Rock 'n' Roll radio?
As a concept, the genesis of New London, CT mock legends Condo Fucks seems easy to understand. Simply put, legit Hoboken legends Yo La Tengo had an urge to release an “easy” album but weren’t exactly dying to have it judged against its usual high standards (the band's last covers album, 2006’s Murdering the Classics, wasn’t so ironically titled). Either that, or the trio simply relishes the opportunity to role play, which isn't so strange, really. Remember when David Johansen released an album as “Buster Poindexter” in the late ‘80s? Okay, well, that’s not exactly what’s going on here, but still, intentions unconsidered, this genre-specific-alias-side-project thingy is actually superb.
Let’s commence with the Fucks’ version of the Beach Boys’ classic “Shut Down”. From the count-off, it serves as faithful a garage gem as any -- brutally short on technique but miles long on attitude. Sure, the vocals are messily obscured behind chugging guitar and an ash-can drumbeat, but the point here is an energetic approximation. Crucially, the power of a good, primitive rendition lies in its re-creation of the original in purely rudimentary terms. The Fucks’ “Shut Down” provides grinding proof of this, a performance that lends unusual grit to the 1960s car song. (Remember, too, the band first honored the brothers Wilson in 1997 with an overdriven homage on I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One’s “Little Honda”.)
Now, granted, a lot of the material revisited here was pretty primitive to begin. Richard Hell’s “The Kid With the Replaceable Head” for instance, nabs a fittingly garbled Fuckbook entry whose no-fi values might even be said to improve on the original. It opens with some loopy major-scale riffing right before Kid Condo (guitarist Ira Kaplan) launches into the first verse through what sounds like an antique baby monitor. Still, for my money, the chorus’ execution really makes the track, if only for Kid’s perfectly inflected yelp on the line, “They say he’s dead / He’s my three best friends".
The album opener “What’cha Gonna Do About It” (originally by the Small Faces) supplies another highlight, setting the record’s pacing at a clip, as it seethes beneath brawny guitar curls. Likewise, Slade’s “Gudbuy T’Jane” closes out a raucous set, as the Fucks’ get visceral for a reading that struts with almost as much charisma as its predecessor. The only really low points come with the album’s more laid-back material, such as the Kinks’ “This Is Where I Belong” and the Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You”. On these two unremarkable tracks, the guitar is simply too loud, overpowering the vocals entirely.
Ultimately, though, with Fuckbook, Condo Fucks muster an exceptionally good garage-rock record and provide another worthy addition to an already (albeit mysteriously deleted) classic oeuvre. Furthermore, as the casual profanity of its name suggests, the band excels with the kind of material that prizes brash muscularity over anything nearing stylistic finesse. Closing remarks? It’s clumsy, cheap, loud, fast and endlessly re-playable.