Music

Robbie Fulks: Revenge!

Wisecrackin' Fulks's double-disc live album keeps the hot side hot and the cool side cool.


Robbie Fulks

Revenge!

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2007-05-01
UK Release Date: 2007-05-28
Amazon
iTunes

I’m a little taken aback at the critical responses I’ve seen for Robbie Fulks’s new (affordably priced) double-live Revenge!, which can’t seem to reconcile the country singer’s wry, sarcastic sense of humor with his purportedly sincere passion for classic songcraft. Some have even gone so far as to insinuate that Fulks was making fun of the traditions in which he so deftly trades. What? The trouble with live records has always been that’s its nigh impossible to replicate the experience of seeing the performer for one’s self as part of a sweaty, teeming mob of people you simultaneously identify with and resent. But listening to Revenge!, it should be obvious that Fulks’s cheeky antics aren’t antithetical to the chaste and sacred heritage of country and western, because the whole idea of country being chaste and sacred is bullshit. Remember Hee-Haw? “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart”? A man should be able to share the stage with Hazel Dickens one night, and play a cover of Cher’s “Believe” the next, without causing confused pandemonium in the halls of criticdom. Unlike a whole lot of live documents, Revenge! is legitimately entertaining, inviting at-home listeners into the experience witnessed by those in the audience, rather than excluding them from it.

The number-one thorn in the side of some writers seems to be the studio-recorded opening track, “On the Road”, where Fulks and band delight in barbershop harmonies about the toils and triumphs of touring, with a few pee jokes thrown in, “Taking it town to town / Wherever the fans are / Spreading our hillbilly sound / Just like a cancer, HA!” The song then winds down to feature a mock phone call between Yep Roc’s president and Fulks, where the former explains that the label is in need of some new record, fast and cheap, leading the latter to the solution of a live album, the ultimate music industry stopgap product. It’s not a track you’ll want to listen to more than once or twice, but it’s a good introduction to Fulks’s self-effacing humor, and a fun conceit for releasing Revenge!, taking the piss out of both the Meeting People Is Easy and rock-god fantasy notions of the music industry. Plus, like the opening credit montage to a movie, it lets you get settled in your chair before the show really starts.

So onto the show: the first disc of Revenge! is a rollicking electric set recorded in Champaign, Illinois, and blasts off with “You Shouldn’t Have”, from Fulks’s ill-fated major-label Let’s Kill Saturday Night. The song sets up a string of solidly constructed tunes full of clever hooks energetically performed by a crack band. There’s real sweat and conviction in “Mad at a Girl”, tangible exuberance in the honky-tonkin’ new songs “Fixin’ to Fall” and “Cigarette State” (with it’s excellent line “Alabama’s grand / The state, not the band”). “You Don’t Mean It” is the one hiccup, an otherwise serviceable mid-tempo ballad that breaks up the rowdiness of disc one.

The second disc is from an acoustic set Fulks played in Chicago last November. The stripped-down intimacy serves the material well, which includes originals like the ancient-sounding “In Bristol Town One Bright Day” to the aforementioned Cher cover, complete with faux pitch-correction. The crowed is reverent for the former and amused by the latter -- but the two songs demonstrate just a small segment of the musical range Fulks traverses with respect and humor. Elsewhere, from the folk instrumental “President Garfield’s Hornpipe/Suza” to the defiant “I Like Being Left Alone” to the humorous asides and stories, Fulks and band make it clear that fun doesn’t necessarily mean easy, and that entertainment doesn’t have to be predictable or pious. Closing with the traditional “Away Out on the Old Saint Sabbath”, made popular by A.P. Carter, the band attacks the song with as much joy and gusto as their more swaggering originals, joy which is clearly heard and passed on even via the limitations of disc or download. And that’s the sweetest revenge of all.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.