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Boom Dot Bust!

 

Released 1999, Rhino Records R2 75983

Bill (seriously)

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.


FredMeister of Firezine
10/3/99

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.

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Tom Skierka

Open open open your mind, turn off the lights and let the voices invade you. I have heard it now about 20 times and it just keeps getting better. It isn't something to invite people over to listen too, because they always want to talk and not listen. Save a copy for the car on long trips. At first I wasn't to sure about it, but that is nothing new. It takes a while to get all the jokes and then to make sure you actually did. My favorite part in the tale is when all four get together in the back room and everyone says ``Hi Doc.'' For some reason that just cracks me up. The ending is fantastic. Don't compare this to others, that isn't fair to the content. Count me in the census as a member of Billville.


Firefried

What's this about subliminal? Boom Dot Bust is anytown USA.
I have met characters very much like the Mayor, Sprawl, the coach or Doctor Infermo. It just the dialogue has been change to protect the innocent and demented. It is one of their best efforts and shows it. Keep listening, you'll get it. Boom Dot Bust mentors your thoughts to view things from a different perspective and inspire enhanced points-of-view. It would have been nice if it was longer, but I do understand deadlines as well.
Keep the spirit, guys. You're on to something and we'll get it soon enough.


Richard Fish
10/10/99

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!


Andy T.

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.


M. Crane
11/5/99

Just today rec'd my copies of "Boom Dot Bust." Only one or two listens at this point, but I want to tell you... I think this recording qualifies as one of the "top" FST efforts.

The theme seems to be hilariously cohesive as one travels through the many layers.

There is much depth here that I have not detected yet... and, to my mind, this has always been a major attraction of FST: a piece of audio theatre that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, with always something new to discover.


John Scialli
10/15/99

I don't really have a review but I'll stick my no-neck out:
I listened to Boom Dot Bust today under less than optimal conditions. Had to quickly dub it onto a cassette and listen in the piracy of my own car. At least I heard it straight through. First a comment on the slick packaging - very nicely executed and complementary to the story maze: I got my CD from Rhino mail order and for some reason they stuck a metallic anti-theft thingie *under* the plastic tray (i.e., stuck on the underside of the tray) such that it obscured the words, "The town that nature" from the slogan (which finishes "forgot to hate").

I feel shocked into a numbness of the brain with the amount of information and ATTITUDE this pupie contains. It is a dark vision of our future (which is part of our past I think I'm supposed to think). The characterizations are very dense and intense and people are worried. The bible's in there as are many other albums. There's more than a touch of roller maidens. The universe of A: Above: B-villers/ B: Below: Fuddettes is a fasten-ating prism indeed.
Thank Elmer the whole thing is just a coda from an old episode of the Fishin' Magician.


Alex

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...


TThor

I haven't had a chance to listen to it in depth...however...I think I like it better than "Immortality". This time Grammyville fer sure!!

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Sam Longoria

"Boom Dot Bust" is simple and incredibly complex, pure and wicked, brilliant, brilliant, and more brilliant.

Get a stack of them, and give them to friends. I did and I'll do it again. Don't let the anti-theft slugs frighten you away.

Many more reviews at Amazon.com