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“Cheap Beer”

In interviews, the four Los Angeles guys behind FIDLAR often have to repeatedly insist that they actually do work really hard on their music. It’s easy to assume otherwise when the first track on their first record is called “Cheap Beer” and the second, “Stoked and Broke,” is a paean to getting wasted and skateboarding, with the key lyric, shouted in frontman Zac Carper’s customary hoarse yowl, “there’s nothing wrong with living like this / all my friends are pieces of shit.” The seeming clincher on their slackerdom is the band’s very name (of which all the members have stick and poke tattoos), an acronym for “fuck it dog, life’s a risk,” which seems like even more of a shrugged-off ambivalent whatever than YOLO.

But, as your mom would say, assuming makes an ass out of you and me, and FIDLAR write really, really good songs. Each track on their excellent self-titled debut is a bubbly slice of smart, spare, moshpit-ready pop-punk that’ll earworm its way into your brain within three seconds of your pressing play, with a driving rhythm section underpinning interwoven guitars (prone, of course, to break into any number of wailing solos) and lyrics that range from shouted mantras for you to fist-pump along to at the dream house show in your mind (“I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! Fuck! You!”) to inside jokes about certain band members’ questionable surfing abilities (“stop wearing tight jeans!”) to tracks that are actually kind of – dare I say it – melancholy. As much as Carper and guitarist Elvis Kuehn, who takes lead vocal duties on some of the records more blues- and classic rock-inclined tracks, might extol the joys of beer, weed, and bombing hills over rollicking surf-punk instrumentals, they spend most of the record taking on some more serious topics – drug addiction, all manner of bad relationships, money troubles; “5 to 9” ends with its narrator getting shipped off to LA County Jail for taking bong rips in the car.

“White On White”

In “Wake! Bake! Skate!,” a concise, anthemic fist-pumper, Carper sings about hoping he can stay alive long enough to keep getting fucked up with his friends – not exactly the kind of sentiment you might expect from the same guy who spends most of “Cheap Beer” proudly listing a litany of his concurrent questionable decisions as though they were the essence of life itself. He might be unable to deny being the charming delinquent you expect him to be, but he can’t quite bring himself to just fuck it, dog. FIDLAR will make you want to pound a case of the cheapest beer you can find with these guys, it’ll make you want to crank it up as loud as it will go in whichever of your friends’ cars is the shittiest and drive through your city with the windows down, and it’ll make you want to try your hand on your little brother’s skateboard, but be careful what you take as the record’s – and the band’s – mission statement. If there’s one at all, it’s probably not what you’d expect. [B+]

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