Ding Dong! When three New Yorkers known as Fun Lovin’ Criminals — “Dapper Don” Huey Morgan, Whizzkid Brian “Fast” Leiser and Drummer Steve ‘O’ — showed up at the doorstep of Ye Olde England in 1996 the Britpop party was in full swing. Oasis. Blur. Supergrass. Pulp. Stone Roses. Grumpy Radiohead. After Seattle’s all-conquering ‘Grungemania’ the Brits were feeling smug enough to blank anyone who wasn’t “Our Kid from Oop North” or down for a “Jellied Eel Cockney Knees up”. FLC were neither EastEnders nor Gritty Northerners, but they weren’t clad in plaid either. They were suited ‘n’ suitably charming, had weed to share and packed the right vinyl in their trunk. The Beasties’ Paul’s Boutique. Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday. Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers. All peppered with some Skynyrd and Sabbath. They knew Tarantino too? “Er, sort of.” Come in chaps, beer’s in the fridge! Cool Britannia fell so hard for Come Find Yourself it’d lounge in the UK charts for almost two years.
“Everybody be cool, this is a robbery!” It’s undoubtedly “Scooby Snacks” that sealed the deal. From its tumbling toms intro it remains one of the smoothest 45s of the decade. “If any of you fuckin pricks move I’m gonna execute every muthafuckin’ last one of you!” barks the Pulp Fiction sampled Honey Bunny. What follows is a riotous yarn involving a bank heist, a stolen Police car and the getaway to Bermuda all whilst being “Whacked out” on the aforementioned titular treats. It’s a tune with such confident swagger it even pauses mid-plunder to flirt with the bank teller, “Is there some Kharmic Chi love-thing happenin’ here baby or what?” This whipsmart shot of humour, hustling and Hollywood would prove FLC’s biggest payday.
Unsurprisingly then it’s these heady cocktails of Tarantino ‘n’ Scorsese streetpunk shenanigans that steal the headlines on Come Find Yourself. The opening, self-mythologising “The Fun Lovin’ Criminal” arrives with a military bugle rally to signal mayhem, merriment and general mischief. They’re here to grab your grass, your girl and, uncharitably, toss eggs at you. “Stick ’em up punk it’s the Fun Lovin’ Criminals”. It’s clearly a tearaway cousin of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” but infused with enough scampish “Redneck style” its appeal remains infectious. Then the Isaac Hayes’ slick “King of New York” paints a Wah-Wah licking fable of a “Mook” called Franky and his dreams of jailbreakin’ the Godfather himself, John Gotti. A Superfly symphony with intrigue and derring-do which samples both Strauss and the Ray Brown trio.
Go beyond the gangster glamorama though and Come Find Yourself reveals itself as a more personal proposition. In his youthful folly, lyricist Huey was caught by the fuzz for selling “Sherbet” whilst inside “Someone Else’s” vehicle. Judge Reinhold decreed he could choose either a) “Stop! Slammertime!” or b) “Join the US Marines”. He chose the latter. Bandmate Fast said this basically “fucked him all up”. The fallout from this is the heart of FLC’s debut and is retold particularly vividly on “The Grave and the Constant”. “They put me together, tougher than leather,” Morgan recalls over breezy, wistful Steely Dan grooves, “No place to go but down.” The same ghosts haunt the bitter ‘n’ bruised “Crime & Punishment”, which crackles with the chainbreakin’ riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and spits, “It’s fucked up what the federal has laid on me / To choose between the lesser of two evils.” It’s a “Heart of Darkness” devil’s brew. “I pity the punks that partake in the madness.” The saddest song though is the sombre “Methadonia” where our travellin’ man returns home to witness lines of pacified zombies queuing up for their “Liquid orange friend”. It’s bleakly sobering. These are Johnny Cash-style, hard knocks laments in stark contrast to the “Bikinis, Blow and Bollinger” Bon Vivants who later partied to UK #5 with their 2001 smash “Loco”.
Away from the silver screen saviours, it’s dog eat dog on these dirty boulevards but the tone rarely lacks spirit or wit. The whispering title track blooms as a blue sky, motivational mantra. “I’ll be damned if the man’s gonna spill me,” it boasts. Mariachi horns soothe through the mellow highs of “Smoke ‘Em” too, which comes rolled with a Glen Campbell twist. Elsewhere “Passive/Aggressive” could be a drinking buddy of Snoop’s low riding “Gin & Juice” albeit with intermittent blasts of facemeltin’ guitar. Our narrator floats by the block sipping on Rolling Rock and pissing against the walls of the “bullshit system”. Dreams of sticking it to the man prevail. There’s even a “What’s Goin’ On” moment in “I Can’t Get With That” where Huey marches amongst “the wise”, “the Suckers”, “the hoes and the hustlers” and calls out the “racist motherfuckers” who run the game. Amusingly the music itself though is a woozy ol’ looped sample ripped from a porno film.
Originally Come Find Yourself was indeed recorded with so many samples their unamused record company spontaneously combusted and demanded the trio recreate each sample themselves. It remains though a record buzzing with a ‘melting pot’ passion for music and enough lawless, wired energy to rifle the pockets of hip-hop, hard rock, jazz and blues. There’s even a shaggy but sweet slow row through Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World”. Only once does it induce “Cringeface” and that’s during the clumsy “Bear Hug”. Rowdy rubbish reminiscent of Onyx’s ’93 machismo jam “Slam” and this album’s way of slipping a horse’s head under your duvet. Disturbing and messy.
Twenty years on it’s certainly worth finding Yourself again. Though Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ subsequent albums would retain much of the charms, none would quite have this first heist’s sense of depth or dizzying, ‘devil may care’ dare. The band may’ve gatecrashed the Britpop blow-up with the ambition to “just have a good time and forget the fact that the rent’s due” but this is more than just another fairytale of New York.