Friday, March 8, 2013

The Fun Boy Three Find A Head That Can Talk

For Waiting, their second and final album, the Fun Boy Three needed a producer - and not just any producer. They needed to find someone capable of making music as simultaneously catchy and off-kilter, as concurrently goofy and disturbing, as they could. Where, oh where, would they find such a man?

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, dancer, performance artist, oversized suit wearer ... producer? Hey, why not. Byrne probably figured, "Well, if I fuck up, who's going to notice? It's only a Fun Boy Three record."

Ah, but fuck up he did not. I hereby nominate Waiting as "most overlooked British Ska Revival album by the Fun Boy Three" ever.  And although Byrne surely brought his skills to the table, the album is essentially an infectious continuation of the lounge jazz/funk/surf rock formula the band had already established so well.

"The More I See (The Less I Believe)" is a nice example of the group's seemingly bottomless ability to create snappy and exuberant pop singles that also have some dark, political bite:
The more that I see, the less I believe
The barbed wire fences have replaced all the trees
The houses of God are full of sinners every week
Praying for forgiveness for those that lead to bleed

And they keep telling me it's not my concern
But when petrol runs dry, when cars overturn
When you see children crying, 'cause their cities are burning
Who's gonna show concern?

The world's going to hell ... but I can dance to it! And, wait a minute, where have I seen that weatherman before?...

Then there's "The Farm Yard Connection," the most cheerful song about the trials and tribulations of growing pot that you're ever likely to come across:
What's your names?
Peter and Bob
What's your age?
We're 23
Where do you live?
We live on the farm
What do you do?
We plant weeds

We got to do what we do
'Cause we can't draw dough
We got to earn a living
But every time the job squad come and intrude
Bang! goes another weeks' wages
Bang! goes another weeks' food

Lousy job squad - they get you every time. The zaniest track of all, however, might be "We're Having All The Fun." "We're Having All The Fun" is like a parody of the sort of provincial, kitchen sink, working class British pop that bands like the Specials and their contemporaries did so well. The verses feel like a sardonic laundry list of stereotypical details, especially the way they fly out of Terry Hall's deceivingly chipper mouth:
I live in a flat, I like Manchester United
I live with my girlfriend and my cat, we're really happy
I like watching television wearing dumbal coats and moccasins
Eating crispy pancakes and having Monday haircuts 

Although I'm pretty sure the band is mocking this sort of songwriting, their mockery almost backfires; the tune has so much zip, it genuinely does sound like the Fun Boy Three are having all the fun. Sadly, for Terry, Lynval, and Neville, the fun was approaching its end, but not without one final hit  - a hit that, like the weatherman, would possess a strange air of familiarity.

No comments: