Artist: Bastards of Fate

Album: Who’s a Fuzzy Buddy?

Who’s a Fuzzy Buddy?, by Bastards of Fate, is loud, weird, and goofy. It’s also one of those albums that can be accurately summed up, at least for consumer purposes, in one of those (A + B) / 2 equations that bad reviewers like to use as a crutch. A month ago, reviewing Jonny
‘s Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love, I said the album was halfway between Rubber Soul and Siamese Dream, which should be enough said; but I didn’t have much of a track record here, so I nattered on for a few paragraphs just to reassure you I’d really listened (a lot) to the darned thing. You should trust me by now, so let’s keep this simple: Who’s a Fuzzy Buddy? sounds like an inspired teaming of Animal Collective with Tub Ring. Thanks for reading! Bye!

Okay, so an annoying part of my brain is pointing out that, Animal Collective’s own niche status aside, well under 1 in 10,000 Americans own any Tub Ring albums (I’m not even able to track down how *I* heard of them). I could substitute, for them, Faith No More/ Mr. Bungle era Mike Patton, with the hostility removed from his sense of humor, but … I’d better just write a review. Animal Collective I referenced for the percussive grooves, the amount of weird sound concentrated at high (treble) frequencies, hints of a certain strange soulfulness, and the general aura of good times. Tub Ring or Mike Patton I mentioned in honor of the wildly theatrical lead singing, a class-clown sort of disrespectful-but-not-unfriendly whimsy, short bursts of noise or industrial-metal in the middle of songs, and the willingness to throw out a good groove to chase a 4-second-long inspiration. People who prefer to trace all pop music back to the Beatles will have no problem classifying Bastards of Fate as pop music: just pretend the Beatles’ legacy was built mostly on Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Got to Get You Into My Life, Helter Skelter, and Revolution 9.

Which would be a fine legacy. Bastards of Fate don’t delve into deep important feelings — “Clankity, clankity, clankity-clank, ankylosaurus is BastardsOfFatebuilt like a tank” is a typical chorus here — but they’re a genuinely excellent band, and these songs are crafted. Digging Up Dinosaurs blends campfire harmonica-folk with arena-rock thump; mutated a dozen-plus ways (Daleks and Munchkins and pianos fed through trash compactors all enjoy seeming musical nods), it keeps its populist shape. Impossible Feelings never stops being gracefully catchy funk-pop no matter how many robot squirrels or robot dolphins try to savage it or summon windstorms against it. Police 2000 is sleek early Cars pop dragged through train tunnels, Doctor Who synthesizers, demented barbershop quartet, acoustic guitar musings (the Beatles also did Julia, right), and an expert violin arrangement without losing its basic catchiness. Huge Magic generates potent group sing-alongs (“There’s power in your words when you sing them, there’s power in your words when it’s the truth” could center a hit song exactly the way it is), then keeps the momentum as Doug Cheatwood spirals into more individualized territory (“If magic cures the hurt/ when my ice cream hits the dirt/ I can wipe my nose on someone else’s shirt”). It balances beautiful harmonies against agonized background screams, builds through massive drums, and unravels into a call-and-response where both Cheatwood’s strained “My magic is huger than your boyfriend” and the sweet “The magic is you” (cooed by keyboardist Camellia Delk) beg for listener accompaniment even while strafed by rapidly-changing instruments.

As both mass and critical audiences reward introspection and/or seduction, Bastards of Fate will remain a minor band as long as they build up to choruses of “Feels like a toaster oven in here”. But I’ve thought those words more often than I’ve thought whatever emotions Phil Collins is usually going on about, and it’s about time, say I, that they be represented the way they deserve.

– Brian Block

To see the rest of our favorites, visit our Favorite Albums of 2012 page!