I didn’t know anything about them until I was given their debut album, Unlearn, to review. For all the truly awful albums that pass across my desk in a week, month, year, it’s always worth it for the handful of gems you get hold of; gems that you would – perhaps – have not known about otherwise. This is one of those gems.
Jason Kelly also plays in Wax Museums, Potential Johns and Big Blow.
Andrew Savage is in Teenage Cool Kids and Wiccans.
But I didn’t know any of that when I heard this album – so I’m not sure whether you need to know that now, or perhaps you did already. Anyway, the reason it’s worth mentioning is purely because Fergus & Geronimo was devised as a writing project first and foremost; two musicians experimenting with styles, genres, working at their writing – seeing what they can create together. And it’s (maybe) worth knowing that it’s just the two of them on this record – every sound. They have some friends assisting for the live shows, helping them to flesh it out.
The result is Unlearn – and it’s a quirky, lo-fi record of off-kilter indie pop. It feels like it could be some garage rarity that was discovered as part of the Nuggets box-set. It feels like, at times, what Ween might sound like covering Captain Beefheart. And it is very cool to hear the influence of Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention. Very cool and very clear.
But I don’t mean the Zappa of spiralling guitars solos, percussion-filled jams and satirical lyrics (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’m talking the trim, taut early Zappa. Still with the satire and trace-around garage/doo-wop feel – but you hear that sound now and (once again) it’s so perfectly hip; so right for the time.
If I’ve almost scared you off with the mention of Zappa (it tends to happen, sadly). These guys also take me back to when I first heard The Vaselines. So try and imagine that (albeit weird) middle-ground.
Don’t worry, this is no MGMT-styled false alarm. These guys can play. These guys can craft hooks and melodies.
The doo-wop that so inspired Zappa is here further subverted; the other big influence – part of the doo-wop riffing also – is Motown.
These 50s/60s/70s influences are used to give a feel and a vibe but Savage and Kelly have created songs that don’t just feel like pastiche-writing.
Check out the title track – the album’s closing number. Also Wanna Know What I Would Do? And Powerful Lovin’ are two of my favourite tracks from the album. They’ll also tell you enough for you to know if this album is worth your time.
It’s certainly been worth mine. I really like it. Have done for many years now in fact. Been fun revisiting it this summer. Maybe some of you will like it too. Maybe you’ve heard it already? But I dug this out and dusted it off – the album, and this piece – on the off-chance that either (or both) might be new to you…