“I don’t want to work a 9-to-5/ It’s easy to be dead, but you get paid to be alive.”
Words of wisdom from a band you might not expect would offer sophistication (hey, don’t be mad: The stanza, “Welcome to Boringville/ I live in Boringville/ Welcome to Boringville/ Where no one has fun” is literally an entire verse repeated). Plus, these are The Fun Boys, who in addition to calling their debut EP “Too Fun” also have a (vaguely graphic) illustration of what seems to be a mouse and rabbit making out on the EP’s cover. They aren’t here to wax poetic. They are here to make your night hashtag-toofun.
Yet that’s the beauty in these five songs and in the band itself. Everything involved is crazy, wild, weird, fun, loose … the list goes on and on. There isn’t a premium on stuffy, buttoned-up performance perfection; rather, these guys want to hit you in the face until you bleed, blood tricking through your teeth as you smile each time the fist hits your nose. It’s a cannon of quirk ready to blast with the hit of every snare drum and the screech of every gnarly scream.
And with five songs, all under two-and-a-half minutes, The Fun Boys also understand the strength in not overstaying their welcome. One listen is over before you know it, almost making you wish there were another five songs stuck onto the end of this collection. It’s like a party you leave too early, longing for the next weekend you’re able to let loose. Or, in other words, it’s as far away from Boringville as possible.
Speaking of that small town, though, the song named after it is perhaps the most Zappa-esque moment here, right down to lead singer Sam Whalen’s Ike Willis-lite baritone throughout the track’s first half. Jangly and bluesy, the song kicks up a notch when the tempo shifts forward and the guitar run-ups evoke some vintage soul that would make the experimental icon grin. Add a dash of brilliantly placed falsetto and the song is just weird enough to snatch your attention and poppy enough to keep it.
The other standout is “Lambo,” which in all the best ways sounds like a leftover from the rhythm section’s previous band, Seaknuckle, especially as the chorus unfolds and the pleasant high vocal harmonies commence. Taking the song to the next level is the bridge, where Whalen makes his case for being a Snapchat generation’s Stephan Jenkins, picking rhymes out of the air like they are raindrops in a hurricane. The aggression recalls Refused and the sensibility harkens Hot Hot Heat. It’s an infectious combination that these guys would be wise to explore more in the future.
But wisdom, if you remember, isn’t what makes the Fun Boys fun. That award goes to the collective’s unabashed commitment to youthful angst. Opener “Malt Shop” bleeds that very thing as it begins with an innocent, “Goin’ to the mall with my best friends, here we go/Goin’ to the mall ‘cause we’re meeting for a rock show.” Backed by a smart use of obligatory keyboards that fill the track out, the song is a memorable display of punk funk that climaxes at the bridge with a singalong that’s equally longing and versatile.
Energy is the name of the game, however, on “Hangin” and “Play,” two espresso shots of sound that will exhaust even the fittest of listeners. Eased in by a catchy bass line, the former brings drummer Colin Shultzaberger’s gritty growls to the forefront, providing a vocal that feels like cats scratching their claws down chalkboards (and that’s a good thing). The nod to Destiny’s Child as the song’s midsection begins is also a … fun … twist. The latter, meanwhile, closes out the EP in style, a killer keys riff kicking the proceedings into gear before dissolving into a dramatic space for Whalen to showcase his still-evolving vocals. It’s the most dynamic song in a collection of songs proud of its marriage to dynamism.
Such is why “Too Fun” pulls off the always-impressive feat of feeling both complete and incomplete, too short, yet too long. The songs here turn so fervently and the structures contain movements rather than verses. In a lesser group’s hands, these ideas could have been 12 4-minute songs that begin to weigh themselves down before track six even begins. Here, though, The Fun Boys make no apologies for their commitment to evolution, their commitment to energy, their commitment, unsurprisingly, to fun.
So, yeah. It might be easier to be dead. But with these five bombastic songs, The Fun Boys prove that sometimes being alive isn’t all that bad, either.
*** 3 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 ***