Good to have the Firesign Back, eh?
RadioNow starts off with one of the best commercial
parodies I've ever heard. And it set's the mood for what's to come.
Buried in that mattress are clues to what's ahead, on the last day
of the millennium.
Having the fortune to have an advanced copy, I've listened to this
CD the required 33 1/3 times (as per PP) and have sussed it out,
quite completely, I think. The FST, after a long absence has gathered
again in the studio, along with a new found camaraderie.
But first, a little history... Introduced in 'A Firesign Chat',
the 'Microphone in hand' technic was used to string loosely linked
bits together for the entire record. In that case, Peggy (why she
would be a reporter, I'll never know) walks the town 'Microphone
in hand'. This was used when there was no strong central character
or theme to otherwise tie the record together. This was used again
in the wonderful FST 2000 bit that the 4 or 5 did for NPR. Here,
it worked like a charm, because all the characters were already
well known to the listener, and in a short bit, it works well. This
technic is used again, but to better effect on GMIOGMD.
The main difference between this record and the most popular FST,
is that, in the previous records, the FST created a surreal world,
that pulled you in for the ride. On the new CD, the FST 'reports'
on this surreal world. Important distinction. The surreal world
is still created, it's still there, just as deep and thought provoking
as ever, it's just that here, the FST is on the other side of the
microphone. This is not necessarily bad. It just appears to be the
newer style of the FST.
The Bebop Loco (PA) character sets the pace of the record, as he
'talks' you from beginning to end. He's laid back, easy going, a
family man. This sort of describes this record. The level of excitement
is tempered by the FST's maturity. Gone is the youthful energy of
'Gary, the Seeker', Happy Harry Cox, and Porgie Tirebiter. These
characters are replaced with the return of Ray Hamburger (PP) and
Harold Hiphugger (DO), Pete Bergman, who gives us Chump Threads,
a character who seems to be most like PB, along with some really
good character voicings, and the 'never grow old' Phil Proctor,
who seems to have the most energy of all, gives us Happy Pandut,
General Y2K, and the ever popular Peggy.
Ray, Hal, Happy, Chump and Bebop take us through
their surreal world on the last day of the millennium as things
fall apart around them like 'rotten fruit'. From the 'female woman'
driving the Babylon SX 4x4, to Hal in the Celebrity Storm drain,
we're given the 'inside' story on the big 'To Do' at Homeless stadium
where everyone is taking the big leap into the Millennium, (aka
Rebus Kinebus' leap to the center of the earth). While the lack
of a strong central character is noticable, this is probably the
result of a new democracy surrounding the FST recording sessions.
This new record, however, is just as deep and
intellectual as any of the previous FST records, and will produce
"I finally got that!" remarks for years to come (I just
got Porgie's Philatelist Club!). The Biblical/Babylon references
alone, "will keep a man punching, 'til he's drunk, with power"!
The Princess Goddess theme injects you with a eeriness that will
stay with you 'till the end of time', and the Unconscious Village
commercials will keep you coming back for more. And did I mention
I love the background music for Chump and Unconscious village?
I did sort of expect a longer record, though.
After 15 or so years you'd think the FST would lay a double record
on us! Or with the CD's holding up to 74 minutes of audio, something
more than 45 minutes. However, I'm certainly grateful for what we
This review attempts a comparison to the FST's
best records of the past. This is, of course, unfair, but it's how
everyone will judge it. I'm just attempting to put a little perspective
on the issue. While I would rank the new CD just after, Dwarf, Bozo's,
How Can You Be.., and Everything you know is Wrong, it stands head
and shoulders above all the other FST records. And that, as they
say, "Is high praise, indeed!"
There are some (although few) FST records that I've listened to
once and couldn't get through a second time (Firesign Chat comes
to mind), but GMIOGMD stands the test of time and dozens of listenings.
And that's good news for everyone. The FST is Back!
The Four or Five Crazy Guys are
Amidst the turbulence of the Vietnam War era
and the rise and fall of the counter-culture, comedy troupe The
Firesign Theatre were there on the scene, interpreting the chaos
and social upheaval with their surreal brand of stream-of-consciousness
humor. In a series of classic comedy albums, the Firesign Theatre
took satire to it's logical extreme and created a world gone utterly
mad, and then proceeded to show us how our own was even nuttier
Now, after almost twenty years, the four or five crazy guys are
back in our ears again. And not in any half-assed way, either. No
rehash of old ideas, old formulas here, as understandable and forgiveable
as that would be (considering that these gents are all pushing the
big 6-0....aren't they about due for a bit of nostalgia yet?).
No, dear friends, this is not only a new Firesign Theatre album,
it also happens to be one of their best releases yet, a stunning
return to form delivered just in the nick of time, as we cross the
threshold into the twenty-first century.
The opening is a perfectly frightening curve ball hurled right between
our ears. Is it a commercial? Is it confrontational theatre? Is
it an outbreak of temporary insanity?
Then, this mindbender (on one level it really was a commercial--a
radio spot to be precise) ends and we get a station identification.
We're listening to Radio Now! (you can hear the exclaimation point),
a radio station so hip, so fresh, so utterly NOW that it changes
formats every half hour or so. Run by the Firesign Theatre's cast
of eccentrics, the station becomes the center of a plot that loops
and zooms around the goings on on the last day of the millenium,
a day where the nation is collectively going somewhat kind-of mostly
bonkers for a little while, whipped into a Y2K hysteria.
Bebop Loco, played with rock-n-roll panache and tremendous crackling
energy by Phil Austen, is our DJ, spinning out the scenes for us.
Phil Proctor (who's all over this disc, and ringing true every time
he's there) plays both the Celebrity Stalker Danny Vanilla, and
Vietnam vet-turned-eye-in-the-sky traffic reporter Captain 'Happy'
Pandit, with a memorable line that involves putting the words "female"
and "woman" together. Peter Bergman is Chump Threads,
sports reporter with a gnawing conscience (he's betting on his own
kid's soccer games), as well as the street-tough station producer.
David Ossman adds an achorman with a bad case of the millenial Fear,
who also hawks Scorpion Survival Yoyos and D.O.A. Antfarms in his
And then there's Joe Camel who, ticked off at years of tobacco-company-bashing,
governmental harrassment ("they went across the line...they
wanted to take my shades away"), and saddened at the prospect
of a future on the other side of midnight where his toxic lifestyle
is no longer welcome, climbs down from his last billboard and gives
a hotheaded press conference, and then roars away in his big souped-up
muscle-car, headed for the "Big One", the New Years Eve
party at Homeless Stadium. And there's narcissistic radio therapist
Dr. O'Nann Winquedinque ("an old hand at self-love") who
can't seem to get his head out of his lap. And wonderful cameos
by Ralph Spoilsport and Caroline P. And many, many more characters
(too many to name). And in between are commercial spots for omnicorporation
"US-Plus" that are simply hilarious.
Friends, listen to this CD five times and you will hear five different
albums, each of which will include at least ten new things you didn't
notice before, each of which will usually prompt either (1) a swarm
of chuckles and guffaws, and/or (2) a paranoid double-take...did
they mean to do that?...just who am us anyway? Well, this is the
trademark of all their best work, from the recombinant chains of
punnery found in The Giant Rat of Sumatra to the nonlinear channel-flipping
mayhem of Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (long before
nonlinear channel-flipping mayhem became a popular thing to do).
Call it one of their special talents, this Joycean knack for finding
weird connections and quirks of language (and particularly the abuses
of language), and parading them around the mind's stage like a series
of teratological weirdities.
However, since it has been almost twenty years since the release
of a Firesign Theatre album, I confess I was a little nervous as
I flipped this disc into the CD-ROM drive for the first time and
put on my headphones. I was hoping for a bit of the old magic, hoping
to spot a few of these strange creatures, these bat-winged cows,
these three-headed-fire-breathing ducks. I should learn to have
a little more faith, I suppose. Fact is, this is veritable managerie
of cinematic weirdity. From the Clinton/Monica/Poe reference (listen
veeeeery closely) to the ubiquitous eyeball hats, there's plenty
here to keep the attentive listener searching for more clues....and