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

REVIEW: XL Fits – Hands + Knees (2017)

A live video of Hands + Knees live at Blockhouse in Bloomington Indiana 11/16/2018

It all happened on one fateful night.

Another rainy Tuesday; some band from Japan was coming and playing a show at the record shop/bar I worked at. I knew nothing about them except their name: XL Fits.

The band showed up, loaded in and played to a room of 7 people including the staff. It was a half-hour of madness and confusion. What the hell was I watching? What the hell was I hearing? Loud, crashing chaos; The few attendees stood still, beer in hand, watching these 3 guys grind, wail, rock and thrash about.

As quickly as it started, the band finished and the attendees left. One of the members and I gestured a conversation the best we could to negotiate his beer order (a singular PBR) and I tried to express how great their set had been.

I quickly bought up all their merch, then XL Fits packed up and left with barely a word spoken between us. The shop owner left and I closed up. I walked to my car, avoiding the broken glass and drunk tourists, thinking about all the people who had missed out on such a life changing show.

Cut to now; sitting down to write. XL Fits are a band so specifically weird that it was daunting to even take notes while listening to Hands + Knees. It truly is a 7″ single. There is no b-side, not even a runout groove.

A 3-piece avant garde punk rock group, XL Fits could be best described as 1 part Sex Pistols, 1 part Oxbow, and about 3 parts DNA. Rarely does it seem any two notes play at the same time. The drumming on Hands + Knees plays out like a hyper-specified algorithm, while Morricone-esque bass thumps out the same refrain. Vocals wail, groan and moan their way over a guitar that is ever shifting between wailing digital noise and clean, drawn out strums.

Each and every part is played with the confidence that things will line-up at the right moments, something that most of us listeners take for granted. And really, that’s all it needs. Far too tight and far too good to be reminiscent of The Shaggs, Hands + Knees plays as if by a three-headed being, able to regroup with precision timing.

XL Fits’ work remains mostly unknown and underappreciated by western audiences. Hands + Knees, as amazing and strange as it is, can’t convey the reassurance that there could be something new out there on the musical landscape in our age of retromania and artistic stagnation. A spiritual experience lost in translation, if I’ve ever seen one.

The XL Fits show story has appeared twice on Resident Sound prior to this article, once in a review of Cal Folger Day and the other on + Brief Thoughts.

For fans of: DNA, Oxbow, Flipper

Like XL Fits? Give these a listen: Oxbow, DNA, Crack Cloud,

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