Los Angeles skate-punk band FIDLAR (which is an acronym for F*ck it Dog, Life’s a Risk) is known for making the music of wasted youth. Brimming with volatile and aggressive punk energy, the band has turned adolescent angst and self-destruction into incredible fun. Their sophomore record, Too, doesn’t do much to expand the band’s usual musical influences or subject matter. Instead, the band continues to do what is does best: craft heavy, fast-paced, cathartic anthems about the pain, fun, and self-discovery of growing up.
Too is an album that evokes a particular time and place in many people’s lives. It’s an album for hating your parents, drinking until you puke, and skipping your final exam to get high on the beach. Evoking late night joy rides with your friends and drunken fits of self-loathing, the album throws a giant middle finger at any prospect of growing up, selling out, and taking on responsibility.
The albums starts off with one of its most potent and memorable tracks, “40oz. and repeat.” The song deals with dark themes, such as low self-worth and using alcohol to cure social anxiety, but manages to turn them into a rallying cry for the troubled and misunderstood. “I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to talk to somebody I don’t know,” lead singer Elvis Kuehnsing sings. “I’ve tried to ask you out a thousand times in my head, you always say ‘no.’”
In the song’s chorus, Kuehnsing sings at the top of his lungs, “I’m going to lock myself inside my room with this 40 ounce on repeat.” The song has a powerful, cathartic quality. Through heavy distorted guitars and strained vocals, the song allows for the exorcism of deep seeded pain.
Other songs on the album capture a feeling of daring impulsivity. On the song “West Coast,” Kuehnsing sings “skip school, I’m already failing/ told mom and dad that I’m bailing/ now we’re driving up the coast,” evoking a deep lust for life and adventure. The chorus of the song goes “I’m sick of this stupid place, it’s so suburban and boring,” bringing to light the ache for freedom that often times defines one’s teenage years. Standing alongside this desire for independence, however, is a fear of growing up. On the track “Why Generation,” which employs more of a laid back musical template, Kuehnsing asks “how are we supposed to live in the twenty-first century when every move you make anyone can see?” The push and pull dynamic between a love of freedom and a fear of growing up is one of the album’s most interesting thematic conflicts.
In order to appreciate the music of FIDLAR, the listener has to get over their expectation for good music to be sophisticated or subtle. In the tradition of early punk groups like the Ramones, the music on Too is hard, fast and straight to the point. This aspect of FIDLAR is at once their greatest strength and weakness. Their simplicity and directness gives their music a raw energy. At the same time however, it can make much of Too sound similar and derivative. The biggest challenge for the group’s next album will be expanding their musical and lyrical pallet without sacrificing their pure punk aggression. On the whole however, what makes FIDLAR such a promising group is the fact that they are not afraid of making music that is simple and earnest. It is a quality that is lacking in an alternative music scene that increasing values irony and pretentiousness over grit and honesty.