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To paraphrase Heath Ledger's impression of a much-beloved sociopath, when and why did rock n' roll get so serious? There once was a time when rock was THE great refuge of brilliant misanthropes who had to laugh at the dismal state of the world to keep themselves from either crying or scaling a bell tower with a high-powered rifle. There was a time when wits were honed to razor-keen edges and used to cut holes into listeners before wisdom was poured like salt into the wounds in hopes that the sudden shock would snap the public at large out of its' self-imposed stupor – or at least piss them off enough that they'd pay attention. Satire was the currency that musicians like Frank Zappa, Jello Biafra, Mojo Nixon, Tesco Vee and Rodney Linderman had to impart upon listeners and, unlike so many other members of the pop spectrum, they required a modicum of intelligence of their listeners; many of them were making music that was characterized as “high stupid,” but they never catered to the lowest common intellectual denominator. When did that change? When was the intelligent music community beaten into submission by a faceless horde of songwriters more concerned with what brand of pants they're wearing than they are about at least documenting the unmitigated mess that the world has become, if not shaking it up a little?
Judging by the band's new album, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits were asking themselves the same question when they began writing their new album. The band remained silent for ten years after first beginning to rock the pop culture boat between 1995 and 2000; they watched the movements of the music business and took notes. Now, in their final analysis, the band obviously found the sound being crammed down the public's throat lacking; hence why this album is named after the notorious failing grade, F. This time the band's satire is so sharp, it'll cut your mouth if you're not already cutting a broad enough grin as you listen. Here, the band is determined to undermine every convention within its' reach and it takes no prisoners.
The band's defiance of every established norm begins right away in the opening blitz of “The Crazy.” With acoustic guitars played so hard that they're percussive instruments as much as the are melodic ones and unfaltering gang vocals for solidarity, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits trample the meek (check out the promise to “shoot you at the first sign of infection” and the fear of mutation or disease at the hands of radiation) and damn the torpedoes without hesitation or remorse.
Of course, saying that is one thing, but actually pulling it off in a believable way is quite another. Happily, the decade-long sojourn has only concentrated Bobby Joe Ebola's attack as illustrated by the fact that neither singer nor band ever really lets up through this thirteen-track run-time; like the unholy result of a drunken indiscretion that between Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon, the band barks and spits a series of off-color indictments that take everything from Pop Tarts to Pac-Man to American politics to domestic terrorism into account as proof against the pitiful species that spawned it all. While no album is without its' flaws and F is no exception, Bobby Joe and his Children MacNuggits manage to keep a consistently high standard of quality in kiss-offs like “Waking Up Is Hard To Do,” “Sandwiches & Ammunition,” “Sweet Shit Of Christ,” “Postcards From Inferno” and “The Only Difference” which are all staggeringly intelligent, yes, but also smart enough to not get bookish or overly academic; choosing instead to rely on one-liners and plays on words and phrases.
Taking all of what the band is working with into consideration, there's no doubting that 2010 is the perfect time for Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits to release F. Had the record been released twenty-five years ago (suspend disbelief for a minute), there's no arguing that the band would have been in fine company, but they would have had company – which would have meant they'd have had to share the spotlight with heavyweights like Mojo Nixon and The Dead Kennedys. This would have also been true had F been the last thing to come from the band before its' hiatus ten years ago but now – at a time when some of the smartest commentary and criticism is being put forward by the craven likes of Weezer and Fucked Up (and Ed Hamell has basically taken himself out of the game) – Bobby Joe Ebola and the Chicken MacNuggits find themselves basically peerless which means they have all of the spotlight in which to shine.
F comes out on October 12, 2010 through Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club/SPAM Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .