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Superfluous Music Reviews : The Fugs

By Jacob Helfman

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-The Fugs First Album

Introduction (formed in 64, disbanded in 70)

Yes! Ever since I first encountered the Web Reviewing Community, I strongfully wished to be the first to review these ever so witty psychedelic wonders. And now that I'm here to introduce them to you all, I'm filled with excitement and happiness. This was the moment I have been desiring and waiting for. I never even really thought of doing them, but sooner or later, I'll have the guts to write about them. That's the way I've thought all during this reviewing experience and I've avoided them since. Like every reviewer, I became wiser and more openly and couragous when it comes to expressing your opinions. The Fugs were the most obscene of all 60s rock bands. Sure, they weren't able to show off their instrumental chops in the early underground days, but if you look at them progress in their songwritting, the explicit profanity and sexual references found in all of their albums, seem more charmingly humourous than merely mindless or obscene. Throughout the Fugs recording career, there have been many changes to the line up: the leading attraction is the poet, Tuli Kupferberg, along with the first six members, who toured frequently through the states. But, in total, there have been nineteen different musicians who've contributed as a Fug member. Ed Sanders, a producer, seems to have also written many of the songs. Having been the owner of the Peace Eye bookstore, he drove the band prolifically and musically later on.

What I really like about this band is their own rock n roll style. People can describe it as psychedelic folk-rock or sloppy,quick paced rock n roll with an edge, but no matter what, I love them for what they always been: a clever , musically-unexperienced, comedy rock outfit. However, if I were to watch their hilarious comedy acts, without their messy, repetitive, dirty, poppy garage rock, I wouldn't have been involved as much as I am. In conclusion, it's the brilliant combination of their sprawling, original, stage acts and music that I desire so dearly and it brings a smile to my face everytime I hear the glorious antics of noneother. They were specialized in live performances and shocked many a spectator. Chaotic, sarcastic and creative were these skits. For instance, Kupferberg would be an Africa-American gospel singer in one song, and a dirty, old child malester in the other ("Dirty Old Man"). Some swell instrumenatl/impersonation breaks and super simple, yet catchy melodies ya got there. Nonetheless, they were involved in political manners: peace activists indeed. But then, who wasn't a musician who played a role in the US politics of the the 60s? In addition, the Fugs served another purpose: to pave the way for the infamous comedy, proto-punk rock artists. The Mothers of Invention are the greatest example, as well as the Bonzo Dog Band for pushing this movement forward to Weird Al and other mostly unsuccesful comedy rock artists/bands.

The only real problem with the band is that the majority of their works/output is not much pleasant to hear. To tell you the truth, I find Captain Beefheart more accessibley pleasant than these guys. But, does Beefheart have songs titled as "Caca Rocka" or "Boobs Alot"? Yeah, eggsaaaaackly. I knew them as the biggest taboo-breaking culprits of all, until I met Frank Zappa. Nevertheless, the Fugs definitley needed to shape up on their music skills. Following The Fugs First Album (which, by the way, is their most initially challenging record to get immersed in their style), they put out a ground breakingly innovative self titled album that featured the most outragous lyrics ever to grace top 100. In 66 especially, when the Fugs were doing much more than hilarious poetry recitals and roots rock from the underground New York folk scene. Adressing government repression and anti-war messeges were the other themes besides the ill humoured sexual ones from "Coca Cola Douche" and the incredibley explicit, yet comedic "Slum Goddess". They've always managed to be at least slightly comedic (they continued to issue live and unreleased material in the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond (after they broke up), it's really amazing for a band such as the Fugs to produce that much material, too bad most of it wasn't worth much), but when it's sheer, simple explicit lines being repeated over and over again, over a lackluster music performance, you'll NOT find it funny at all (this occurs less rarely than you'd expect from the Fugs). Worse yet, they keep on repeating the sexual themes in each song and it gets BORING. In fact, I never really enjoyed their well-known debut either. However, I think their worst album contains what they were most well known for and without that debut, what else would have kick started the Fugs so powerfully? The album is decent, only for those hits ("Slum Goddess", "Boobs A Lot") but without em, I'd give it 1 1/2.

Yeah, it's true. Their sense of humour was more or less monotonous. And when it came to writing, recording and releasing new stuff, the Fugs' act got old. Believe it or not, what was once extremely shocking, is now (beyond their wonderful 66 self titled) superfluous. You know, as in what this entire site is and all these reviews are. At any rate, that doesn't take all the fun and catchy music away. They still have some worthwhile, post-glory albums. Among them are the live Golden Fitlth and the newly released Live from the '60s, both featuring live highlights though, I strongly recommend Live from the 60s especially for Fug fans.

However, the major peak of the band is the 15 song compilation, The Fugs Second Album, aside from their self titled. On here you can find the Fugs at their most scathing, polished, and well accomplished best, performing with better adequacy (the Fugs were definitley not appreciated and loved for playing clear, emaculate, crisp songs with great adequacy, as you see from my Starostin evaluation below) and outstanding songwritting that seeps through the reckless, bouncy, repetitive guitar riffs and the prominent pop choruses in every song (folky choruses are what make up the majority of each song, along with their intrigueing, up beat surf roots and hard rock style ). Well crafted and diverse. Like no other Fugs collection. I like the unique way they've captured that irreverent, cynical atmoshere feel and it's never unuasual to find Kupferberg yelling out provocative verses in a sarcastic, yet manic manner. Occasionally, the silliness factor overwhelms the literate style of theirs. Then, as a result, they start sounding like just plain rambacous hippies!

The following was ripped off from George Starostin. I'm sorry if I can't help myself from biting off of him, but this is probabley gonna be the first and last time I'm doing a general evaluation I found it incredibley fun and interesting! like the Fugs, themselves. We all owe this to George. Thamks George! By the way, I added a touch of originality by writting a brief summery of the band.

Listenability: 3/5

Resonance: 2/5

Originality: 4/5

Adequacy: 2/5

Diversity: 1/5

On the brink of a 3, or shall I say by a whisker?

Artist Summary

I have concluded that this comedy group has many weak spots, but if I were to measure the comedy consistency, then this band would be at the top. The Mothers and Weird Al would be at the very top, though. Anyway, this is group of which once you get to know them, their simplistic side starts to show and the simple catchiness of their music and fades in. You see much clearer now, but are they extremely resonant songwritters like The Beatles? I'm afraid not. I say their style wanders more into the forbidden, inaccessible, slightly unlistenable zone but, that's at first sight, their instrumental playing starts to get more easier on ya and disparatley delightful later on. You'll see, my young grasshopa, you'll see..................

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The Fugs First Album (1965)

The Fugs: -An infamous recording that's really harsh on the ears most of the time. It's hard to imagine that this was the album that made everyone recognize the Fugs. It was well-known, but not as appreciated as their self-titled. Most of this is decent, some of this is funny, a couple are classics, and some are completely atrocious and unacceptable. Not only are the ugly tracks unbarable, but they can also be extrememly offensive. Talk about obscenity. Sheik Yerbouti is almost nothing compared to this. The Fugs definetley took gross-out comedy to a new level of profanity and explicitness. I bet most of you won't mind the musical band performance, but when they come back with vulgar after vulgar after tasteless themes for each song, anybody will get annoyed and maybe offended (I doubt it though) by the many songs that display this. During places in the beginning and end, there are awful music performances, that are sooo plain, the ryhming verses coming out of 's mouth is the only thing that slightly attracts me to these three song sequances in the album. When it sounds like the band is having fun, you find you're the one NOT joining in the fun. And yes, the Fugs did all this with a disregard for sounding note perfect and being a thrilling, highly ambitious group of professional musicians. Kept no clear, glorious goals in mind for their future or career either. What a bunch of lousy, lazy hippies and bums!

Don't let this make you think that there's no reason in listening to this album, becuase there are this contains some worthwhile , genuine material. Folkways Records compiled two initial sessions from the Fugs in 1964. There were some sprawling line ups (of back up bums) and the compilation seemed a bit short. More importantly, Ed Sanders collaborated with Harry Smith and kicked off The Fugs crappy career. Calm, peaceful folk to rythm and rock blasted this debut, along with the gorgeous, affective beat poetry of Ed Sanders and. Witnin this plain sounding mess, unordinary factors play along. Most of it is horribley muffled, you might notice, but I just (recently) realised that the only sound that is muffled are the beats of the drums and probabaley the percussion section. Unusual whistles, grumbles and chimes fill in the natural, atmosheric places. Cool, cheap sound effects.

No political lambasting is found here. Instead, we find pro-acid numbers, such as "I Couldn't Get High" and most of these are prett steady and rythmic, considering their practically reciting lyrics. Like "Slum Goddess" for instance. It opens with the vocalist reciting in a synical manner, and indeed, this material is truely vulgar, but I dont mind it as much as I use to. I mean, why would I be offended anyway, I'm a teenager for God's sake! After the guitar lines and instrumental break every few seconds, the song turns into a full fledge up tempo, blood pumping, surfer-like wiggley psychedelic guitar -rock song. You gotta admit, the guitarists is a fine one at that, with some ripping, blistering leads and a mini hard rock solo. A bouncy, simple beat and melody that improvises almost. This song usually is performed beside the folky, heavy rock melody of "Coca Cola Douche", a well crafted, structured number. A less memorable, super-simplistic rythmic, folk rock tune follows before the vocal melody and calm, relaxing drum rolls open and end "Supergirl". It doesnt really go anywhere, but it's great. The rythm section, sweet n' soft vocals and guitar make this a truly relaxed, enjoyable cut, as opposed to much of the rest. A real good Fugs jam is showcased for the first and only time ("Swinburne Stomp") and the catchy chanting/shouting of the vocals randomly annoy you in "I Couldn't Get High". It only sucks you in halfway though the song. The Fugs try to sing a memorable main chorus, but fail in doing so. That instrumental line (guitar opening, mid rythm section performance) is great though. This stuff continues to be really controversial as we see in the remaining 50 minutes.

A handful of unmemorableness floats about between "How Sweet I Roamed" and the raucous good ole' time, engaging "Boobs a lot. The I find to be the last great piece of music on this record. From there and beyond, prepare to wander into the decent to atrocious segment.

Yup, that's eleven remaining songs full of crapola and better crapola. A number of thses songs suffer from extreme repetitiveness and uncreativess. There's way too many elemental, basic songs here, in order for it to be this long. Only if the Fugs took the concise route instead of boring the hell out of us (I bet it might be fun to be in thier shoes, striking those hideously easy notes). No innovativeness, a little inventiveness, some interesting sections, nothing truly ground breaking or exciting. The song, "Nothing" is nothing but bongos and provocative lyrics that have a little vocal melody twist every twenty seconds. Something learned to not be entirely montonous. Yeah right. Although, the lines, "reading nothing/writting nothing/arithmatic nothing/history nothing/ social anothropology naaathing/school naaaaathing" are interesting, especially when they improvise with spanish and "saying out in folk ways naathing". However, the main cause is the dullness of everything. Sure, it's tasteless humour, but who gives a crap when the music can be sped up and the guitarist can be able to show his mind blowing skills. That guitarists is something, too bad he's only featured in a few cuts. By the way, did I say that this the most twisted, demented albums, and it's a surprise I'm giving this a decent-good rating, becuase the bonus recordings are somethings you wouldn't want as a bonus. This is some mighty singnature jamming. Which means that be prepared for the most shocking stuff on earth. The sloppiness feels to sloppy at times, but don't worry, from my Fugs experience, it seems that randomly loose music/poetry experiments were all intentional. Despite all of it's obvious problems, a lot of this ends up being a revolutionary feat.

Best Songs: Slum Goddess , Supergirl , Swinburne Stomp , Boobs A Lot

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Add your thoughts? (1/13/03)
Good review, I was 15 when I first listened to the fugs ( 31 years ago). What can I say, getting high down in my parents basement with some friends listing to the fugs. Man did we laugh. I had the Virgin Fugs with the poster and flip strip tease book that came with it. Somebody borrower it for a stage party and never gave it back. I've got the first album CD but could never find the Virgin fugs on CD which I think was there 3rd album. Thanks for the review.


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Disclaimer: All written material copyright(C)2001-2002 Jacob Helfman's Superfluous Music Reviews, and become the property of this web site upon submission.