Music Review: The Figgs
In the wake of grunge rock's roaring rhythm guitars and heavy bass, a deluge of rock and roll bands that combine all types of music have gained in popularity. Blending the influences of American and English punk, country, even 70's glam rock and disco, small bands offer a wide variety for those looking past the chart-toppers of the major label bands.
From the state of New York, The Figgs fuse many elements mentioned above into their music with fast two-minute songs and long-riffed ballads. "Low Fi At Society High" was released at the end of June and contains the mixture of sounds and ideas that have made American "garage rock" swing back into mainstream popularity. "Low Fi" sings of the basic passions of "teenage boydom"; girls, loves and fun. One of the greatest assets of garage rock is its unpretentiousness; the Figgs do not bring in political causes or moment/guilt imagery that has dominated other genres of current music, particularly grunge, punk and industrial. The mixture of fun and sometimes blues offered by this band is a venture off the pounding durges of Nirvana or the industrialness of Nine Inch Nails. The Figgs rely upon the fast guitars found in such punk bands as the Ramones. Yet the music changes patterns, flipping from punk guitar to a more complex Replacements rock sound with overlapping guitars and bass, and then right back.
The Figgs will be touring nationally through 1994, and expect to see them at the 9:30 club or 15 minutes sometime this fall. "Low Fi at Society High" can be found at the likes of Tower Records and Kemp Mill, and is worth finding.
Those returning to American University may remember a Tavern concert featuring Sky Blues and their opening act, World in a Room. The Cleveland--based World in a Room made its D.C. debut this April 16th, and its album "Dance on the Stones," released only weeks later, is a great find. World in a Room's musical style mirrors early U.S. bass and guitar into a combination of insightful, mellow and upbeat songs wonderfully sung by frontman Jason Kilbey Smith. With Keven Bangs on lead guitar lending his vocals, World in a Room's songs become even more vocally complex and melodic. For its songs, World in a Room looks to the personal experiences of the entire band. Smith and Bangs and bassist Tim Brennan all contributed with music and lyrics, and the songs have a modern garage-countryish rock sound, with emphasis of rock. Yet there is no denying their songs have a rural, passive beauty not unlike R.E.M. or Toad the Wet Sprocket.
World in a Room provides both a mellow and upbeat album with "Dance on the Stones." Live, they provided a great time with their jangly guitar and bass flowing through the night, carrying Smith's voice around the Tavern. For the freshman rock 'n' roll lovers, look into the concerts that SUB will be offering during the free coffeehouse nights. This is a free chance to see great local, AU and regional talent. Also, watch the CityPaper for World in a Room, and you will not be disappointed.
There are always the Billboard Charts and MTV to show you the newest and hottest in new music; yet the best way to find music is to keep your ears open to what is going on around. Luckily for you, colleges like to bring in a mix of students from all around the country and the world; and inadvertently, many of those students bring with them their favorite bands. I struck up a conversation with a floormate from California and ended up listening to a band from the West Coast, which blew me away. Want the roots of punk? The sneering quickness of guitar and bass only to be found in the Sex Pistols or The Ramones? Then be on the lookout for The Humpers. Bored with the corporate lifestyles that we all are faced with, The Humpers smash back with their album, "Journey to the Centre of Your Wallet." The Humpers bring the underground imagery to life. It's the look and feel of high-energy, stripped-down rock and roll.
Punk, after going underground in the early 1980's, has again found mainstream attention with the Seattle scene. While major independent and Corporate labels look for the next Nirvana, tuning into that loud guitar screaming from your neighbor's room may find you better music than any record exec would ever put on the radio or Alternative Nation.
These three bands, though all rock and roll at heart, have a diverse sound that will appeal to the "alternative" grungester, the punk, and to the ordinary Joe-college. If you want something new in your rock 'n' roll, just look around you. The Washington CityPaper or local fanzines, the Tavern or Black Cat, the music is there, ranging from ska-punk to pop rock to crossover rock and rap that would make the Beastie boys turn green. Before the majors scoop them up, experience your neighbors' music, no matter where they are from.