REVIEW: Fischerspooner: #1
Fischerspooner: #1 [Capitol, 2003]
Three words? Nostalgia by dummies.
The year 2002 marked the return of rock ‘n roll. The Strokes found themselves selected as Artist of the Year by Spin (even though their smash Is This It? was released in 2001); Wilco graced year-end top ten lists; and Britney Spears' fanbase snatched up White Stripes CDs, realizing that they too could rock out (Meg White style) without an impossible figure or an enormous bank account.
One of the standouts for this writer was Andrew WK, a one-man wrecking-crew of a performer. Love him or hate him, WK's energized performances and almost guru-like interviews dripped with sincerity. He truly loves what he is doing, and although I Get Wet wasn’t the most original record, his passion took it the extra mile. The tales of Andrew WK's devotion are legendary, from hours and hours of autographing at the Vans Warped Tour, making sure he met with every one of his fans, to blowing headliner Danko Jones off the stage every single night on his opening-spot Canadian tour.
But where Andrew WK is humble and committed, Fischerspooner are arrogant and flip. And it is smug pomposity and the absence of sincerity that makes their debut so frustrating and stale.
The CD's cover is more ugly in person than you can imagine: a greasy head in close-up with its tongue poking out. Flipping it over, I found a backside adorned in large print with media praise, dwarfing the size of the song titles. I’m sorry, but adoration by NME (who had the audacity to call Fischerspooner "the best thing to happen to music since electricity"), a magazine that each month heralds a new saviour of rock, is meaningless.
In a further statement of the group's priorities, the nearly three-page record company bio talks first about celebrity collaborations, and then about the music. (Oh, and those celebrities? Fashion mavens from Kylie Minogue and David Bowie, to photographers Karl Lagerfield and Jurgen Teller, to designers Jeremy Scott and Hedi Slimane.)
The band's founders, appropriately named Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, met at The School of The Art Institute Of Chicago (What a great name for a school! -- Ed.). It is beyond me how two art school students who claim to love everything from classical violin to hardcore punk to avant-garde composition to third-world electro pop, could create an album so utterly unimaginative. Spooner "hates" nostalgia, calling it a "one-dimensional perception of the past;" but honestly, there is nothing here that wasn't done two decades ago.
Listening to #1, it was easy to lose track of the music as each squelching synth track led into the next. The beats are rarely interesting: boring dancehall "boom-boom-boom" bass underlines everything, and the vocals are near monotone. (I guess that’s supposed to be sexy.) Even "Ersatz," an instrumental track, is astonishigly dull. The opening cut, "Sweetness," starts off promisingly with the roar of a jet engine, but it quickly settles into routine synth-pop production.
Oddly enough, Fischerspooner only show some potential on the two hidden tracks, including a remix of "Emerge" several times more intriguing than the original. The accompanying DVD features clips from their acclaimed live shows - glitter! costumes! - which prove far more stimulating - and certainly more entertaining - than the music proper.
And yet, I still couldn't help but wonder how art school students with such a huge interest in music could create something so terribly ...ordinary. #1 is like being at a high school dance with a terrible DJ, one who seems to play the same house records over and over and over again. As a group that claims to "experiment within the borders of electronic music," I was left puzzled.
I scoured the liner notes searching for an explanation, dredging through the lists of stylists and choreographers. Nothing. Finally, on the bonus DVD, I found the truth. On the documentary about the group, Warren Fischer says it plainly: "We just wanted to see how popular we could make this thing." Their spectacular shows and hit songs are all positioned to do one thing: to cater to the lowest common denominator. I wish I could appreciate this on an ironic level, or say that the group is bringing something new to the electro/80s revival. But I can’t. #1 is muzak for the masses and the attempt of a couple of art-school failures to hit the big time. It is, frankly, insulting.