The Fucking Champs - Greatest Hits

Proper metal, that's what this is - big riffs, buzzing Les Paul guitars, Marshall amps and twiddly bits bursting out of every break in the vocals. Indeed, all that's missing is the singing of a bloke with testicles stressed from strides a size too small, a bit like how Rob Halford made all the difference to Judas Priest. Instead, The Fucking Champs thump like metal but have the bluff of an indie singer buried somewhere in the mix, which would sound very, very odd were it not for the humbucking grunt of Les Pauls taking on JS Bach's Air On A G-String. Not that's proper metal.

The Fucking Champs formed in 1996 in San Francisco as just The Champs by Tim Soete, Josh Smith and former Nation Of Ulysses guitarist Tim Green. Only dropping vocals into the occasional song, The Fucking Champs began by releasing tapes recorded at home before signing to Ace Fu records and issuing a couple of 7" singles. Their first album, III, was released in 1997 and mixed rock songs with big synth riffing, which was then followed up in 2000 with IV and two years later with the unsurprisingly titled V.

The album opens with the instrumental Hats Off To Music, which shows how the rest of the album will follow. Over a chugging guitar, and every metal song must have one, there's a strangely melodic guitar dub that flusters over the backing. Track two, Dale Bozzio, is much the same but Tim Green offers up a vocal track about a minute in. The third track is one of the two songs on the album that sounds like absolutely nothing else on it - the other is the sweetly acoustic Lamplighter - and instead of guitar riffing, whooshing synths hum over the drums. After that, Greatest Hits gets into its pattern and sticks to it without change. Given the type of sound they're pushing, it's a little difficult to pick those that work best but the few that stand out are Lamplighter, Never Enough Neck Pt 2 and Flawless Victory. You might get the joke but Policenauts is just awful.

Is every misstep deliberate? Of course, it's entirely possible. As with the absence of a wailing singer, the cover of this album features the three members of the band strolling down a gentle hill that's dotted with white flowers, quite some way from the flashes of religion, casual violence and hairy-palmed sexuality that litter other metal albums. Even their playing with synthesisers could either be considered up front and honest or goofing around in the manner of Tap's jazz odysseys, deliberately twisting their sound to never sound predictable. Whilst never sounding as though they really mean it

The Fucking Champs could either be smart guys playing it for laughs or really dumb guys keeping it straight but, for what they're doing, I really have no idea. After all, how to take a title like Thor Is Like Immortal? Sure, Thor is one of the Norse gods to get a regular mention in rock, unlike, say Frig but whilst many metal bands would keep it straight, you always leave The Fucking Champs with the sense that, "Thor Is Like Immortal...they've got to be kidding!" Same with Crummy Lovers Die In The Grave and the fantastically titled What's A Little Reign? Best of all is the listing of Rob Hallows as Rob "Hallows Be Thy Name" Hallows in the inner sleeve, which surely shows there's a knowing wink behind what The Fucking Champs are doing.

Don't think any mention of indie means that as a fan of Sonic Youth, Oasis or My Bloody Valentine, you'll appreciate The Fucking Champs. Getting Mudhoney is a slightly different matter and if they, Dio and Judas Priest have a place in your record collection then it's entirely possible that The Fucking Champs ought to be in there too.

Overall

6

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 14:58:34

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