The Fugs – the fugs final cd [part 1] – 2003

[Originally posted April 2012: not a Top Fifty, but linked to the previous here which is]


Poignant Yodel

Arrived today and now plays, more of the political [Government Surveillance Yodel] and puerile [Septuagenarian in Love], set to country-tinged harmonies or rock’n’roll parodies, there is ironic wisdom in the humour, for example this sage advice from a band whose core members Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg will have obliterated so many personal bridges in their irreverent lifetime,

Don’t burn a bridge that you’re standing on
Never try to sleep down a burning bank
Don’t try to cling upon a burning plank.

Context is everything, and when you know these lines actually follow

Oh isn’t it true that sometimes
the river is more beautiful
when the bridge is gone

you realise the satire is tinged with real regret as well as silliness. As these hippies rage in their old age the compromise is embraced in the song’s chorus

Mix prudence with my ashes;
Write caution on my urn,
While life foams and flashes,
Burn, bridges, burn.

It’s not an abnegation of the past but an awareness of the present where death is the biggest joke of all, and it is the banal and mundane that drives us to the grave as well as the bigger issues,

Please can I have my job back?
Burn, bridges, burn
I don’t want a divorce, after all
Burn, bridges, burn
I’d like a security clearance, please forget my past
Burn, bridges, burn
I’d like to rent the same apartment, I know I trashed it last year, but
Burn, bridges, burn

[Burn, Bridges, Burn]

And just when you might think The Fugs really have regressed to a primary concern for the domestic, they come up with an absolutely gorgeous song that reminds us of those bigger issues, and the ultimate purpose and power of the yodel,

It’s time to think
of ultimate things
– yodel
what will happen to the soul?
what will happen to the soul?

[Ultimate Things]

Another beautiful song is A Western Ballad – For Allen Ginsberg [by band member Steve Taylor with echoes of both Arlo Guthrie and Roy Harper], its potent and political poetry set to a gorgeous tune, and this is what The Fugs can merge so well: meaning with melody.

There’s the wonderfully witty too: getting there with A Short History Of The Human Race and its three core lines,

World War 1: The human race stinks
World War 2: The human race shrinks
World War 3: The human race extincts

and is fully realised with IS, where Bill Clinton’s ‘apothegm’ is captured as a soundgrab to be sampled within the song playfully, set up for its first ridiculing by the lines,

Get ready, Mr. Nietzsche Get Ready, Kierkegaard
Stand down, Mr. Hegel, and Bertrand Russell too
‘cause someone has come up with a homily
that’s sharper than Plato and Wiittgenstein
& shivering with truth

It depends on what the meaning of the word IS is

It’s all good fun [in the album booklet’s introduction and description of the songs, it is acknowledged that Clinton was ‘unfairly hounded by an interlocking geek-pack of right wing nuts throughout his presidency’] so the attacking is assuaged by understanding and explanation rather than any outright contempt – the kind of contempt allowed for rebelling youth and revolutionaries, not senior citizens even with attitude.

It’s not therefore the caustic comedy of early Fugs nor the polished pillorying of it crawled into my hand….., but it is still the brilliance of social and political commentary coupled with clever songcraft, now tempered by the maturity of age and perhaps knowing that raging against it all doesn’t stop it coming.



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