You know how when people are asked for what they look for in a prospective mate, and they always say “a good sense of humor?” Music is kind of the same, and like people, truly funny individuals are not as easy to locate as you would hope. Fergus and Geronimo are funny. Not in the trying-too-hard, Tenacious D kind of way. And not in the too-clever-for-their-own-good Pavement sort of way, either. No, Fergus & Geronimo are funny in the I-want-to-hang-out-at-that-recording-session kind of way.
Their CD sets the tone (not that I’ve ever seen it physically, but saw a photo). The physical disc is plain, with the words scrawled in clear print “You Still Buy CD’s?” Then in small print, the instructions are printed: “Clean disc thoroughly with bleach and 400 grit sandpaper. Place in oven at 375 Degrees F.” If that knowledge doesn’t make you feel called out, maybe the incredibly catch “Wanna Know What I Would Do?” will hit home.
“Wanna know what I would do if I were you? I’d find a new scene to leech on to.” The song is full of scathing, tongue-in-cheek criticism of the current music landscape. It’s humorous, yes, but it’s also biting. It kind of hurts my feelings, honestly. But it also gets the listener’s attention. Like their CD art, Fergus & Geronimo’s debut LP is built to grab your attention. It doesn’t help that this album is a grower, but weeding out the fakers and grabbing the people with a little patience and dedication to giving music a thorough listen seems like the record’s primary goal. It is successful.
The duo of Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly bring a wide range of influences to the table, including 60’s soul, Zappa and The Who. It sounds like the music from another generation, from the rocker “Baby Don’t You Cry” which combines the “la la’s” from “Happy Jack” with garage rock that The Who popularized, to Motown-sounding title track that ends the collection on a reflective note. “Unlearn” hammers the point of the record home, though, and puts their influences in a better perspective. Thinking for yourself and rejecting what is taught to you is something that Zappa or Townshend would gladly tattoo on their grave, and Fergus & Geronimo seem to similarly reject the notion that a band is supposed to have a defined sound or singular set of influences. Similar thinking bands, like Man Man (“Powerful Loving”) and even The Strokes (“The World Never Stops”), will come to mind, but because they also draw from a wide range of influences and, well, they use their head to make the music they want to make and not necessarily the music that people expect to hear.
But where the cornucopic styles make the record a difficult listen at times, I keep coming back to the humor as the glue holding it together. Without tunes about girls with British accents, Unlearn might come across as a pasta-throwing contest for a meal where the al dente and soggy noodles cannot be hidden. But as is, it is an unmistakably raw first album of ripe potential, and one of the more memorable releases of the early weeks of this year.