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Fighting Clowns


1981 - Fighting Clowns: Rhino RNLP 018

(from the "Fighting Clowns" CD booklet) Phil Austin said in 1993 on the "Fighting Clowns" album

"What is missing on "Fighting Clowns" are two pieces of a larger puzzle. I now believe them to be "Welcome to Billville" and its companion piece "The Presidents In Hell." "Billville" was a bizarre story - an educational film - that detailed the maneuverings of Mayor Penisnose and his cronies in Billville to poison the water of the town with steroids in order that their children's necks might become so big that one of them might win some Olympic medals in Neck-Skiing. The "Presidents In Hell" featured Ike, Nixon, Truman and Roosevelt stuck in a strange half-world of accusations and dreams and alcohol."
(editor's note: Fighting Clowns appeared to relfect a FST that was done with comedy.  No record contract and much infighting left it's marks on the troupe.  The "Music" comedy record may have been all that they had left in them.  They've since proved they've still got that FST magic.

This record marks a complete departure for the Firesign Theatre. For the first time ever, they present us with an album full of songs. There are two spoken words pieces involving four too-laid-back, decadent L. A. trendies kicking back in a hot tub, a short spoken-word intro to the number "Violent Juvenile Freaks," and an prologue and postscript to the album, but they are short and clearly there for color. "Fighting Clowns" is a collection of musical political humor.

This could've been a monumental disaster, but they pull it off effortlessly. The four have fine singing voices (though David Ossman sometimes speaks/sings his lyrics) and Phil Austin is especially relishing the acting-out of his longtime rock 'n' roll fantasy (he also plays guitar). The themes covered include the Cold War, Ford, Reagan, and disillusioned youth. The music is of a high quality (many numbers are downright catchy) and done in a variety of styles (punk, doo-wop, World music). No tune goes on too long and indeed, the whole album fairly flies by. You start out amused, get into the groove of the album, and it's all over before you know it. In the manner of leaving them wanting more, you find yourself going back for repeated listenings (the hallmark of all great Firesign efforts).

Though a series of unrelated songs, this album succeeds chiefly on the strength of it's political themes, unlike, say, the general unrelated sloppiness of "Not Insane." And, as always, it's a treat to hear the four performing in front of a live audience. Sing on, brothers!

-- Phil Buchbinder