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Album Review: Fergus & Geronimo – Funky Was the State of Affairs

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Artists

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There’s a scene from the early ’00s Fox sitcom Undeclared in which the inept wildcard character Marshall Nesbitt announces his rock star aspirations by performing for the first time at his university’s talent show. Inspired by his favorite musician, Beck Hansen, he marches onstage and throws down a bafflingly silly solo set laced with robotic chants of vague social commentary and corny sci-fi allusions, including the lyric, “I am the music man/ funk is my energy/ music is the product of/ my factory.” The stunned audience applauds politely, and that’s the end of that subplot.

On their sophomore LP, Funky was the State of Affairs, Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly, also known as Denton, TX duo Fergus & Geronimo, also deliver music that celebrates all things funk and sci-fi – robotic chanting included. Of course, the band’s latest album can’t be described via a 30-second clip from a decade-old, quickly cancelled comedy series. But Funky does respond in its own way to the question that Undeclared scene implicitly asks: why can’t music that’s “silly” be serious too, especially if danceable rock music is the lone goal? On Funky, Savage and Kelly do a respectable job arguing this, even if they’re not entirely convincing in the end.

Funky is a loosely conceptual album having to do with Earth and humans from an alien’s point of view, or something like that. (“I can’t get enough of these damn Earthling women/ the smiles and the laughter and vibes that they’re givin,’” goes one typical lyric from “Earthling Women”). It’s fun, playful, relentlessly irreverent, and sometimes unlistenable. Fans of the B-52s’ aggressively absurd tendencies or Pavement’s intermingling of adept guitar melodies with casual rough drafts should find something to enjoy here, though probably not enough to keep coming back.

At their best, Fergus & Geronimo nail the upbeat dance rock they strive for, but always with one foot firmly planted in cheeky territory. There’s not even a blemish on a few of these tracks, including the irresistible funk rock title track, which rightfully concludes the album. Still, unblemished doesn’t necessarily equal impressive. When a band refuses to completely expose itself to scrutiny, you’ll often get an album like Funky: one that knows how to dance but doesn’t have the legs to stand up long.

Essential Tracks: “Funky Was the State of Affairs”, “Drones”

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