Homespun: Fattback


Jul 29, 2009 at 4:00 am

Fattback's Canary might be the most fun local album released so far this year. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has caught the quintet's occasional stint as a Huey Lewis & the News cover band. (For real: They nailed "Heart and Soul.") On Canary, the band's barroom blues and punked-up honky-tonk riffs combine with nonsensical lyrics and hearty, greasy vocals to create a nonstop tour of unhinged rock & roll. Overdriven slide guitar and soulful electric piano lay a solid foundation for the bizarre backwoods odyssey "22 Swamps," which centers on a chance encounter with a zombie moose. (The living undead are clearly a fixation for Fattback; its last album was called Briefly a Zombie.) Elsewhere, the revved-up funk of "Hey Pretty Lady (Take A Look At My Legs)" contains this summer's best pickup line: "Hey pretty lady, take a look at my legs!" Who can resist such bravado, either from a gentleman caller or a rock band?

These mostly jokey, absurdist songs would make Canary a one-and-done listen if the band's chops weren't so dead-on. Dave Hagerty (guitar), John Joern (drums) and Grady Breidanbach (keyboards) share the microphone, but they all possess a carnival barker's confidence as well as a high degree of control over their respective axes. The instrumental "Surfwax My Saddle," which is full of reedy combo organ chords and barbed-wire guitar licks, could have been lifted from some '70s spaghetti-Western soundtrack, and "Tow That Line" sounds like Little Feat on a meth-and-barbecue bender. Canary works by marrying never-miss grooves to rousing, often hilarious lyrics and, amazingly, the whole thing doesn't come off as a novelty.

—Christian Schaeffer

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