On Tuesday the B-52’s will release their first album of new material in 16 years: Funplex. While that’s a long stretch between releases, the band wasn’t exactly quiet during that period â€” they toured every few years or so, and in 1996 vocalist/yelper/cheerleader Fred Schneider released his second solo album, the surprisingly gritty and punkish Just Fred.
Working with “recorder” Steve “Don’t Call Me a ‘Producer'” Albini and members of Six Finger Satellite, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and the Supersuckers, Just Fred is a raw take on the party rock the B-52’s are known for, recalling their earlier CBGB’s days. Trouble is, coming after the huge pop success of Cosmic Thing and, to a lesser extent, Good Stuff, B-52’s fans didn’t quite know how to take it.
Dishing out equal portions of camp and indie rock, lead single “Whip” (download) has Fred posturing and growling until he becomes positively Lydon-esque. All together now â€” FORTY LASH-SHESSS! FORTY LASHES FROM YOUR EYYYYYYYEEESSS!
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The album also featured a rerecording of “Coconut” (download), a song Fred originally recorded a couple years prior for a Harry Nilsson tribute album. Here it becomes a feedback-drenched fever dream, starting its climax at the 1:40 mark when Fred starts singing like a drunk with a speech impediment until he starts shouting, capping the whole thing off with “YOU’RE SUCH A SILLY WOMAN!!”
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Cracks me up every time. However, the real comedic piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance of Just Fred has to be his twangy collaboration with the Shadowy Men, “Sugar in My Hog” (download), a song Fred claims is inspired by a real conversation he overheard at a biker bar in Montreal. I’ll give you a few seconds to wrap your mind around the image of Fred Schneider in a biker bar in Montreal.
Okay, are you back yet? Good. “Sugar in My Hog” is a personal favorite, the genesis of an inside joke I irritated friends to death with back in ’96 when I would call and leave voice mails accusing them of tampering with my hog:
It wasn’t Sweet & Low
It wasn’t honey
It wasn’t maple syrup
Sure wasn’t money
IT WAS SUGAR! IT WAS SUGAR!! YOU PUT SUGAR IN MY HAWWWWWWGGGGGG!!!
Unsurprisingly, I have considerably fewer friends now than I did in ’96.
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