the Next World" is the last album put out on the Columbia label
under the banner "The Firesign Theatre." This also might
be considered the end of the second phase of the Boys' career and
they go out with a bang. Even though the album's writing credits
list only Phil Austin and David Ossman, the group is performing
at the peak of their powers. Some of their most devastating media
parodies are featured on this record, culminating with a take-off
on Marlon Brando's refusal to accept his Oscar at the Academy Awards.
In reaction to the hedonism which was fast characterizing the late
'70s, many characters on this album are confronted with having to
pay for their past actions: a grizzled cop, Random Coolzip, reflects
on the effects of his choice to put his job before his family in
the majority of side one, "Police Street;" and everybody
must answer for what America did to the Native Americans on both
sides of the album.
The idealism of the Firesign's '60s output has given way to paranoia
and a feeling of being under siege - a violent police siege occurs
early in "Police Street," the Academy Awards are taken
hostage on side two's "We Lost Our Big Kabloona," and
two characters in a liquor store must protect themselves against
the voices from "the next world" (also on side two). All
the charcaters seem to run about existing solely as fodder for the
media - real life leaks into TV & Film reality and vice-versa,
much as it does to George Tirebiter on "Dwarf." However,
whereas "Dwarf" shows characters seeing reflections of
themselves (of different aspects of their personalities) on TV,
"In the Next World" shows the TV experience as having
become the nation's reality in and of itself. In short, in the '60s,
we watched TV. In the '70s, we ARE the TV.
The album's general aggressiveness helps it's impact - the satire
cuts more deeply here than on other records. After "In the
Next," the Firesign Theatre would release a handful of "revue"
type albums (sketches with no particular linking theme), none of
which would equal this album's (and previous album's) effectiveness.
They would re-visit their longer format with "Shakespeare's
Lost Comedie," "Nick Danger, Third Eye in the Three Faces
Of Al," "Eat Or Be Eaten (these last two without David
Ossman)," and "Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death."
-- Phil Buchbinder