I have to admit, it is going
to take a few more listens for me to really get into all the material
in the Firesign Theatre's new album "Boom Dot Bust." But
just in the couple of times I've listened to it, it's easy to tell
it bears more than one or two listens.
However, after the hands-down
success of "Give Me Immortality, or Give Me Death," "BDB"
comes as a bit of a step down. But this is not to say it isn't
well made, or enjoyable. In fact, like "Immorality .
. .," it has the same quality of one of their early Columbia
era albums, and that's no shame. But returning to the 'Bill'
humor of "Fighting Clowns" is kind of silly, even if that
silliness is a breath of fresh air. On a the other hand, like
Billville, nature apparently forgot to hate the Firesign Theatre
too, as "BDB" does not sound at all like an album done
by a bunch of old guys who've forgotten what they ever started doing
humor for in the first place. But I suspect for me, this is
an album which will have to grow on me before I can say I really
love it. Still, Firesign Theatre albums have a way of doing
just that, so on that basis, I'd recommend it.
DATELINE: ROCKVILLE, MD 10/19/99
...the Freditor contemplated
the latest offering from the Firegods, provided by an advance copy
of the CD weeks before. Boom Dot Bust is a pretty weird record.
I can't figure it out. It's funny as Hell, if that's possible, and
entirely different from most other Firesign Theatre recordings,
that's one thing for sure. Gone are all the lovable characters we've
finally gotten used to and connected with in the past. (I don't
want to meet or hear from any of these new people ever again.) Our
listening reference points are built and randomly discarded as well.
What are we experiencing, a record, a movie, an electronic book,
a stage show, a radio or TV broadcast, a computer session, tour
guide lectures or just plain thoughts? Well, yes, all of these things
at once and more, I guess. There's enough sectional humor to keep
us tuned into whatever, laced with a fair amount of commercials
tossed up to grab our attention back from the drift. Americans love
commercials and as usual are the best part of the show and the most
carefully constructed but they also help carry the ball of the plot
as well, this time around, assisting the characterizations wallowing
in the shallows. The guys are still surrealistically mixing icons
to paint the picture but now are doing the same thing with subliminal
story telling techniques, to put it mildly.
There is a plot line to sometimes
follow. Mayor P'nisnose (Bergman) is, at points, the central character
who has been elected by all the Bills in Billville (where everyone
is named Bill) with help of his town council buddies W. Bill Sprawl
(Proctor), virtual housing developer, Coach Bill Swatt (Ossman),
steroid dosing Phys Ed teacher, and Dr. Guillermo Infermo (Austin)
a "we're doomed" saying physician. It's the 4th of July
2001 and the Mayor has stolen all the town's money and has to cover
his paper trail ass by setting up his partners and releasing a trapped
tornado during the annual parade / lynching which coincides with
a nationwide car race rolling into town and all building up to the
grand non-finale. Sound simple? It's not. The bits and pieces strung
together give us all the background and details needed to glue the
tale together in our own minds. Other characters come and go with
the wind and provide lots of laughs, footprint clues and subliminal
messages to follow.
It's a brilliantly difficult
row to hoe and only someone of the caliber of the Firesign Theatre
could seed, fertilize and pull it off. Can you imagine trying to
pitch this concept cold to a record company executive? Only their
reputation could slide this under the door. And how do you package
it all up in a graphical sense? Well, the Bills at Rhino gave a
journeyman attempt by slickering the boys up in suits and computer
graphics that pin on the main characters but somehow land at ground
zero. There's a kind of let's get this over and go home attitude
about the whole proceedings. Most offensive is the back cover showing
the guys as burnt out fools waving cheerfully (is it goodbye or
hello?). Only Austin gives the appropriate finger.
But hey, Rhino has stuck
their horn out on this one and must be commended for releasing this
unmarketable mini-masterpiece of modern comedy. The jokes on them
too. We'll buy it anyway. A true classic in any kind of a frame
will stand the tests of time and taste. My only real complaint is
that Boom Dot Bust is far too short for the big bucks price tag.
Tracking in at under 45 minutes, one can only dream of what the
guys could have come up with on a 74 minute budget. But there is
no need to worry for in about a year from now there will be another
brand new Firesign CD, already in the works and speculatively titled
"The Bride Of Firesign". By then we should all have figured
out Boom Dot Bust.
The Freditor turns into the
driveway and hunkers back down into the Firezine bunkers, still
shaking his head and laughing out loud.
Boom Dot Bust is a hysterically
funny album. Keep that firmly in mind, because it's so much more
than just a comedy album that any discussion of its wonders tends
to sound way too serious.
Firesign Theatre fans, rejoice!
You're going to love this one. But note (and anyone who is not familiar
with Firesign's earlier work, be reassured) that the new album breaks
new ground, and does not rely on knowledge of the groupís earlier
work. Whether you're discovering the group for the first time, or
delighted to know that they're together again, Boom Dot Bust works
beautifully. As usual, the more you hear it, the funnier it gets.
The Four Or Five Crazee Guys are way beyond "back" --
they're ahead of us, again as usual.
The audio production is superb.
I can't wait to hear the DVD 5.1 surround sound mix, but even in
stereo itís clear that repeated listenings will be an increasing
pleasure to the ear as well as the mind. It will take a quite a
few to catch all the loose diamonds in this rich mix!
So, what's it all about,
Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Smith of Anytown, USA?
In their latest release,
Boom Dot Bust, The Firesign Theatre performs open-chest surgery
on the heart of America.
What their incision reveals
is a treasure chest: stories, people, puns, thoughts, giggles, ideas,
jokes, words, bellylaughs, phrases, satires, songs, commentary and
audio images which fascinate and delight the mind, as a hoard of
jewels dazzles the eyes. The concepts flash and course before your
astonished attention so fast, the mental experience is, at first,
a little like watching films as complex and fast-moving as "The
Phantom Menace," "What Dreams May Come" and "His
Girl Friday" all at the same time, on the same screen.
But don't be put off -- not
for a second. Find the time, adjust your attitude, leave plenty
of room to double up, and listen. There are laughs in every layer,
and there are lots of layers. Share it with your friends. Send a
copy to your mayor.
Sure, it's all about the
Midwest -- in one sense. But the sun never sets on the shadow of
the Stars And Stripes falling on the US Plus logo. In this latest
album, the Firesigns have exposed the innards of American culture
to the rest of the globe, ribbing open the cage that surrounds our
heartbasket. Itís as much about any US town as it is regional, and
itís a ruthlessly, hilariously clear picture of the roots of Americaís
cultural influence. Boom Dot Bust is a mature masterpiece.
Youíll hear people you've
met somewhere, voices you've heard somewhere, using the word-power
of Bill Burroughs possessed by Bill Shakespeare, or vice versa.
Thereís not a single unbroadcastable word, but itís still like South
Park possessed by John Dos Passos. Youíll be left with mental images
that suggest Norman Rockwell possessed by Hieronymous Bosch.
What youíll be encountering,
of course, are the insights, honesty, audio mastery and comic genius
of The Firesign Theatre, possessed by themselves. Phil Austin, Peter
Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor helped mold an American generation.
As the millennium turns, they've given us a Boom Dot Bust of Uncle
Sam more detailed than anything in the National Gallery.
And a helluva lot funnier!
Well, today I too got my
first listen to BOOM.BUST. I actually bought it on Tuesday, and
dubbed it to cassette that night, but waited til tonight to listen
- I just got back from a walk with the ol' walkman. I think the
above quote pretty much speaks for me too. I found that one listening
left me pretty much confused as to what I had heard.... All Firesign
albums have depth to them, and this one is really deep, with the
most political/social commentary since FIGHTING CLOWNS. There were
a couple of funny bits in there, but connecting everything together
into one story is something I had trouble doing at times.
I suspect this one will take
many listenings to figure out exactly what's going on. ( That's
cool though - for me at least, because that's what the Firesign
Theatre is about - however, I suspect this one may be too "deep"
for the people who select the Grammy awards. GMIOGMD was definitely
a funnier album for the "casual" listener )
Anyway, that's my take on
it, so far at least.
Well, I've only listened
to _Boom Dot Bust_ three times, and I like it more each time, but
I have to say that it seems like they're trying too hard in some
places. Sure, there's some fantastic material on here (such as Glueit,
the restaurant review, and Doc Infermo), but some of it ("Kane!",
for example) leaves me cold. Also, some parts of it are a bit too
similar to _Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death_ for comfort: Johnny
Vacation is just another Bebop Loco, and DishNet Sports is a lot
like Chump Threads' Sports in Your Shorts. The other thing that
_Boom Dot Bust_ lacks that FST's early work had is clever transitions
(think of the trial/court-martial switches in _Dwarf_). _Immortality_
had an excuse for fragmentation because of the format, but _Boom
Dot Bust_ feels unnaturally disconnected. It doesn't even have anything
like _Immortality_'s eyeball hats to Glueit together...