Review Summary: There is something sickly sweet beneath these sheathes of caustically distorted synths, vitriolic lyrics and menacing screams.
Jason Stollsteimer of the Von Bondies describes Fight Like Apes as “candy wrapped in barbed wire.” For the most part, it’s a bang on the money observation: there is something sickly sweet beneath the sheathes of caustically distorted synths, vitriolic lyrics and the twin menacing screams of frontman Maykay and sideman Pockets. On the group’s debut EPs, released in 2007, Fight Like Apes were like candy wrapped in barbed wire and more. After sequestering to Seattle to record their debut album with John Goodmanson (Blood Brothers, Blonde Redhead), however, some of that spark was lost: the improved production value had dulled those barbs ever so slightly, not least in the case of lead single ‘Something Global’ and follow-up ‘Jake Summers’ (originally the lead track from the EP: How Am I Supposed To Kill You When You Have All The Guns?
At the peril of standing at the back of the room shouting “play the old shit
!”, I’ll stick to the positives. You Filled His Head With Fluffy Clouds And Jolly Ranchers, What Did You Think Was Going To Happen?
(or YFHHWFCAJRWDYTWGTH as the kids will undoubtedly refer to it) is the band’s first US release and the continuation in a series of oddball titles (the album itself, only available in Europe, is named Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion
after a little-known Mr. T movie). It comprises five songs: ‘Lend Me Your Face’ (the “single”), Mclusky’s ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ and ‘Knuckleheads’ (b-sides from the ‘Something Global single), ‘Canhead’ (from the ‘Tie Me Up With Jackets’ single) and ‘Snore Bore Whore (Spherical Mix), a re-working on an earlier EP track.
As EPs go, it lacks the coherency of its predecessors, being as it is an essentially hacked-together collection of sub-album material. ‘Lend Me Your Face’ is the clear standout, a fiendishly catchy slice of anti-pop that, aided by syncopated drums and squealing synthesiser lines, allows Maykay to introduce herself in terms that could only be deemed antisocial: “Lend me your face / I’ll bust it up and I’ll replace it.” The influence of legendary Welsh punks Mclusky cannot be under- or over-estimated: fans will hear huge similarities with Maykay’s ironic macho posturing and penchant for needlessly offensive diatribes, and to this end FLApes have made things immeasurably easier by including a Mclusky cover on the CD. ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ is a more-or-less straight cover of the original, only Maykay makes no effort to imitate Andy Falkous’ imitation of an east coast American accent and the use of distorted synths rather than guitars lends the song a slightly less abrasive feel.
‘Knucklehead’ is a sludgy affair that somehow makes a hook out of the words “Fran Drescher.” The eponymous catcall of ‘Can Head’ is vaguely reminiscent of Pixies’ ‘Tame,’ while ‘Snore Bore Whore (Spherical Mix)’ takes the EP to a sleepy close with a hypnotic keyboard motif and breathy, distorted vocals: it’s well worth a listen, if only to compare with the drastically different version contained on the David Carradine Is A Bounty Hunter Whos Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch
On balance, You Filled His Head With Fluffy Clouds And Jolly Ranchers, What Did You Think Was Going To Happen? isn’t quite the knockout punch that many would have hoped for to the US market, nor does it constitute a particularly shrewd, cards-against-the-chest move when an imported record is just a click away. However, with a performance at the annual SXSW showcase in Austin to come later this month, it should be enough to ensure that 2009 is the year we hear an awful lot more about Fight Like Apes.