By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
If Fun Lovin' Criminals were the Ramones, their Þrst album's "King of New York" would've been titled "Gotti Is a Don," and their new album's "The View Belongs to Everyone" would be "The Return of Gotti and Paulie." They don't believe in lyric sheets (I don't either) so their words get pretty confusing for foreign fans putting together Web sites. Hell, I'm from Virginia and the only reason I've heard of Hackensack, Bensonhurst, and WNBC is due to Billy Joel, Lordz of Brooklyn, and Howard Stern. My favorite FLC mondegreen comes from the Websiter who thinks the ramblin' tough guy in "Back on the Block" is wielding a "shake" in his hand. Granted there's some pretty dangerous dairy products out there, all that fat and cholesterol, that sandy yogurt garbage at McDonald's, but I still think the word is really shank. As for what "running kosky-mooskered to the LIE" means I get the expressway part from Seinfeld reruns, need help with the Þrst bit.
Still, there's lots to like about these guys whether you liked their hit "Scooby Snacks" from a couple years ago or not (I did), and even if you're one of the people who confuse them with Fine Young Cannibals. For instance, no explanation is ever given about why keyboardist-trumpeter Fast is called Fast, much less why he's called Fistynuts sometimes, much less why vocalist-guitarist Huey once had to choose between a jail sentence or the marines (for whom he injured his leg in Saudi Arabia). And the clincher is that Huey also owns a garbage- hauling business that's advertised in both CD booklets . . . or actually, the clincher might be that they sampled Lynyrd Skynyrd and recorded with Echo and the Bunnymen.
Forget the jokey platform-heeledandhip-hugged funk kitsch exploited by well, every band of the last 15 years. FLC aren't just white thugs with guitars yelling about beating heads and calling it rap-rock; they've got blue-eyed souls. They tell stories. "10th Street" is about buying bad grass on 10th (Dutch tourists, plan your vacation accordingly). The chorus sounds like the Damned's "Looking at You," but the song goes country-hopping on the verses, and a distorted solo adds a Ween feel. A bunch of cop cars arrives during the solo, and the song's hero is forced elsewhere to buy, maybe Lexington 125.
100% Colombian(the title is supposedly a coffee reference, yeah right) also has a dead-on Santana jam, transparent Boz Scaggs and Barry White allusions, an actual blues with B.B. King sitting in, a partying-in-L.A. put-down with a fantastic coda rearranging Marshall Tucker over drunken gospel organ, and the best pet song since "Marie Provost" by Nick Lowe (unless the Shop Boys count). So if you think sedate, versatile rap is a bad thing, maybe you should just let DMX or Master P shout at you over boorish beats and computer bleats instead. FLC even include an advertisement for Atlantic Avenue Limo Service is this a DiFontaine Hauling Company tie-in for Huey? Do they haul trash in the limos?? (I understand Janice from Paul's Boutique is the receptionist at Atlantic Limo now.)
"Korean Bodega" marks the CD's shift away from soul-rock, into Thorogood/Diddley. Huey has helpfully informed outsiders like me that "'Bodega' is kind of a slang word for a store, and 'Korean' is a guy who owns a store." And here I was thinking "Korean" meant Korean! The song was reportedly written to pay off a $2 tab owed to Huey's local bodega, making it the cheapest song ever (though then again, I heard Desmond Child gave "Angel" to Steven Tyler for a gum wad and some pencils).
Sometimes Huey goes Taxi Driver on us: "They're all bums, girl/livin' in their fucked-up places/I'm talking murder/I'm talking blackmail and jazz/and guys with burnt-up faces." Surrounded by wahwah crunch, he says a murdered woman had her face disÞgured too, so faces don't fare too well in this particular song "Southside," the band's most metallic ever. The only facial horror missing is a shout-out to Camilla Parker Bowles.
But Fun Lovin' Criminals go straight from that one into "We Are All Very Worried About You," their mellowestcut the chorus resembles "We've Only Just Begun," while the verses are like "Midnight in a Perfect Oasis" by DJ Shadow Muldaur. Huey said he felt proud to write lyrics from a loser's point of view . . . until the rest of the band congratulated him for writing words so obviously autobiographical. When he sings, "If you þy high again/they're gonna bag you up," you know he ain't talking about the bodega checkout counter.
Fun Lovin' Criminals play Irving Plaza February 10.