The Fellow Americans’ Debut No. 3
By Ken Shimamoto
Since they last graced these virtual pages, The Fellow Americans have received favorable notice from no less a personage than Stairway To Hell author/former Village Voice music capo di tutti capi Chuck Eddy, who wrote that TFA’s then-current CD, Search for Numb, sounded like “a dark-hearted, early ‘80s new-wave band who grew up on really hard rock” – a fairly accurate call on Mr. Eddy’s part, since TFA mastermind Matt Hickey is living proof that enthusiasms for Deep Purple and PiL are not mutually exclusive, while bassist Hal Welch will proudly cop to his membership in ‘80s Arlington glam-metal outfit Invader. Ironically (in the non-Alanis Morissette sense), by the time Eddy was singing the band’s praises, fresh-faced frontman Jeff Price, who’d sung on the rekkid, was no longer a Fellow American, having jumped ship as soon as the discs were back from the pressing plant. Undaunted, Hickey stepped up to the mic and TFA soldiered on as a three-piece, which many listeners (your humble chronicler o’ events included) see as an improvement.
Like their Weatherford brethren One Fingered Fist, who also recently shed their stand-up singer, the stripped-down Fellow Americans sound born-again hard on Debut No. 3. Up front, Hickey doesn’t so much sing as he chants and declaims with a fine malevolence, while laying down guitar lines that churn like an unholy union of Steve Jones, Tony Iommi, and Mick Ralphs on Mott the Hoople’s Brain Capers. Behind him, Welch lays down nothing but no-frills bass drone a la Grand Funk’s Mel Schacher, and drummer Caleb Dissmore thrashes and bashes away with great abandon.
TFA’s sound reflects their omnivorous appreciation for all things hard ‘n’ heavy, merging arena rock dynamics with punk aggression and hardcore song length. Indeed, no song here gets a chance to overstay its welcome (except “Back Again,” which clocks in at a hefty 5:08). Opener “Twelve” leads off with an intro that recalls the Me-Thinks’ “Bong MacGyver” before the verse kicks in with the swagger of Aerosmith’s “Same Old Song and Dance.” The jam in the middle of the raging punk blaster “On and On” wouldn’t have sounded out of place at one of the Texxas Jams back in prehistory, laudable here for its brevity. The pummeling instrumental “This Won’t Take Long” tips its hat to TFA’s arena roots again before “Mean Mean” takes the piss out of a poseur’s posturing: “You don’t care what the facts are / You just want to be a superstar / You try to prove you’re an Uberfreak / When you’re just pathetic, you’re weak.” Hickey’s persona is that of the oddball outsider at the end of the bar; he’s not looking down at his subject, he’s looking over at him. “Seconds Out” is TFA’s anthem and the best thing here, strutting like an inebriated hooker or a zombified ‘80s version of Keef Richards (which I suppose would be Johnny Thunders in his decline).
Full disclosure: Matt Hickey and I have had beers together, usually at The Bull and Bush. Our bands play shows together. We comment on each other’s blogs. We give each other haircuts. We lend each other money. We push each other out of windows.