White Fang – Full Time Freaks

Full Time FreaksWhite Fangs' first six albums can be grouped under “tales from the frontier of mind blown”, or “our muse is a herb”. As the acceptance of cannabis has become more permissive, cultural allusions to it (and taboos, rampant illegality) haven't needed to be as subtle to bypass censors. Societal progress is not necessarily arts. Easily locatable grass is not an inexhaustible subject. Is cannabis the drug for people who aren’t serious about drugs? The question White Fang repeatedly ask is, does their music have currency beyond the campfire of its devising? Is this, in the grand American tradition of Reed, Smith and Mapplethorpe, a celebration of the ever decreasing margin; an attempt to humanise the noble stoner?

Early highlight of Full Time Freaks is "Shut Up", a little classic of bored filth, employing a kind of lyrically conscious mock hardness and block-y chords that works beautifully; a ludicrous little tune about nothing. Tunes like "Doin’ the Dam Thing" and "Gonna Get It" are similar; little slabs of scurf philosophy of 'the casual', full of munching guitar and drums driving each other to an unvaryingly, while singer Gage riffs about work life being a series of repetitions with a series of repeated lyrics. "High on Life" is something of a gag presumably, coming as it does before "Pass the Grass", rather than marking their conversion to unwitting pamphleteers for the religious campaign with the same name. They’re clearly having way too much fun getting jacked for there to be any truth in that.

Title song "Full Time Freaks" is actually far less interesting than the rest of the album. Impressive nicknames being less impressive when given by their owners and their proclamation to be freaks is unnecessary if they actually are, but everyone’s allowed their vanities. By far the weirdest thing on the album is actually “Talkin to the Apple” which is essentially lounge music, a three minute lift journey of softly exhaling legato and rippling sheet like chords. There isn’t a place where it would have been appropriate to include it, so they stuck it on early and it sits there like a nun at a tanning salon, apparently benign but completely out of place. Is it metaphorical lift music; ascent or descent? But to prepare you for what? Basement narcotic utopia? Rooftop discord? To take your mind of your presence on Earth as your atoms hurtle unalterably toward oblivion? Probably it was just a jamming song that they grew to like because it was so different. It doesn’t fit, but their oeuvre suggests they regard concerns of that kind as prosaic.

“Talkin to Gary” is a quest song lacking a quest, characterised by reference to the weather in order to suggest the new epic, poetic direction of the band and finalise their departure from material like “Christophers Dick”. Possibly. It ends with with the same chord sequence it began with, just as the story of the band leaving Portland to go on tour has begun. Comment on the circular nature of existence? They located their grinder and lost interest? The song does contain a great lyric - and it almost seems throwaway, as if Gage hadn’t really considered its quality - about the banality of manufactured tragedy; “And all the sad songs on the radio, don’t mean a thing but a smile to me.” Which possibly also hides in it, the likelihood that White Fang don’t really care much about other peoples “stuff”. Full Time Freaks is an anthem not to a doomed youth, but to a mostly indifferent one; an account of the ground just left of center but no further than that.

Punk was never supposed to be decadent. Never supposed to confuse getting wasted with shamanic enlightenment and smoking three cigarettes at once with valuable sub cultural contribution. And after all the freaks, egoists and messiah warriors of the 60s - which is where White Fangs approach places them - showed it to be a dry garden. White Fang sound like a band who don’t believe history repeats itself. History doesn’t spare people for not having any interest in it. And like Charlie Parker said,  “Anyone who says he is playing better either on tea or when is juiced is a plain, straight liar.” But maybe that’s jazz. And like they say, "We’ll get as high as we fucking please."

Release: 28th April 2014, Code 7


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