Birthed from Los Angeles’ already nicely saturated punk market, FIDLAR has released a self-titled debut that was made just for you if your New Year’s Resolution was to kick more ass and screw the taking of names. It’s not an album to listen to with friends while you hang on the porch with a nice microbrew and reflect on the good times - it’s one to put in your earphones, grab a skate- or snowboard or just get in your car all alone, and thrash the shit out of the inside of your head.
Two members of the band have a father in T.S.O.L., but that pedigree would mean nothing if the kids themselves were talentless (Nelson, anyone?). Suffice it to say that anyone who fears punk is going to be crowded out by a bunch of bearded, emotionally evolved vest-wearers and Sigur Ros/Beach House clones need only listen to the opening 3 tracks of FIDLAR to have all those fears suffocated under a torrent of feedback and then another torrent of SHOUTING. FIDLAR delivers a tweaker manifesto set to blistering guitar work, SHOUTING about beer, smoking pot, getting busted, fucking around at work - assuming you even have a job - and taking enough drugs to kill a bull elephant. And skating.
FIDLAR’s commitment to better living through use of ALL CAPS (the band’s name is an acronym for skate motto Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk) is apparent on “Cheap Beer” and “Stoked and Broke,” and culminates in the anthemic “White on White” before the album slips into pop punk territory with “No Waves.” That track has a sunshiny catchiness vaguely reminiscent of Weezer, yet the lyrics yell about feeling like a crackhead and wanting to do nothing but fuck around with friends.
In the only track mentioning girls instead of drugs, “Whore” delivers a somewhat misogynistic love song about betrayal; misogynistic because listeners with lady parts may be growing weary of guys tossing around the 'whore' moniker every time they disagree with some girl's behavior. If your girlfriend slept with another dude, then she's a shitty girlfriend, or perhaps a skank, but she’s not someone who sells herself for money. And since every other song on the album is about getting stoned, going to jail, and avoiding gainful employment, there may be a reason why your lady is shopping elsewhere - and regardless, it doesn’t make her a whore. Thankfully the song is solid, and the guys in FIDLAR are young and admit to being pretty ridiculous at this point, so it’s somewhat forgivable - this time.
The second half of the album slips a bit, but this is a debut and like 97% of all debuts not every song is going to be a gem. Some of the tracks careen between mediocre filler and simply bad -“Paycheck,” with its dirgy, heavy guitar riffs, forgets the purpose and power of speed, and “Max Can’t Surf” and “LDA” are just boooring. However, the weak tracks are more than salvaged by bright spots like the excellently executed “Gimme Something,” with surf sensibilities dating back to 1968, and “5 to 9,” which give the album the balance it needs to sustain high marks. “Wake Bake Skate” will be shouted at ear-bleeding decibels at every festival FIDLAR attends this summer, and with good reason - it’s a fantastically juvenile and fun piece of work, and shouting it just makes you feel good.
So what’s the take away to all of this? FIDLAR is not going to replace Japandroids’ brand of pop punk in your heavy rotation when you’re getting all raged up with friends, nor should it kick OFF, Titus Andronicus, or even that original Replacements or Misfits piece of vinyl off your turntable. What it should be looked at is as a promising debut LP from a band that hopefully won’t fry too many brain cells with overuse of pharmaceuticals before putting out a lot more material like this to the deserving masses.