REVIEW: Family Fun – Record (1981)

You read that right, folks. Record is the 1981 release by Boston avant-aware new wave group Family Fun. A project of Arf! Arf! Records owner Erik Lindgren, the band consists of Sara Goodman (vocals), Russ Smith (bass, vocals), Erik (Moogs, keys, theremin) and Rusty Lindgren (guitar, vocals),

Family Fun kicks off Record with opening track Games. Surf-y guitar and bass reminiscent of The B-52s is punctuated by agile drum-machine patterns. It’s fun, if not a little predictable at first.

Sara Goodman’s rock vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Missing Persons, while Russ Smith’s bass playing is notable across the entire album. This provides some steadiness to the avant garde antics of the Lindgren siblings, a necessary contrast keeping things from going too far one way or the other.

This contrast in steadiness and chaos makes Family Fun stand out from others’ forays into new wave. Family Fun is part Devo, part Suburban Lawns, and part outsider music. It’s interesting and exciting to hear the risks taken by Family Fun, as they have held up incredibly well.

That’s not to say Record is a masterwork waiting to be rediscovered and put atop the throne of music revisionism. The a-side comes with the trappings of new wave in 1981. Its compositions in rock can be a little predictable for the time, while tonal aesthetics haven’t aged well either. Simply put, often the song writing isn’t quite strong enough to break away from the rabble of new wave.

That is until we get to the b-side: EZ Listening Music.

“WARNING: Do Not Listen To This Side.” The behemoth of a track totals out with a 16 minute run time, the b-side’s label adorned with the aforementioned warning. EZ Listening Music slowly swells into being like the beauty of day break underscored by looming anxiety of life. Sara Goodman’s spoken monologues pin an all too real human element. Guitar strings are held on, agitated more than strummed while blips of Moogs and other electronics tweak in and out of ear shot. All of this underscored by slow swelling bass guitar. Ultimately, the song’s direction finds itself much like a movie score.

“Elevator music for 1990. Right, Erik?” is etched on the b-side runout. I can’t even imagine.

For fans of: Devo, Missing Persons, The B-52s

Like Family Fun? Give these a listen: Suburban Lawns, The Waitresses, Tones on Tail

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