By: Derek Spencer
Self-awareness is a saving grace, of sorts. Self-parody, self-commentary– such mechanisms are safeguards against the embarrassment of sincere commitment, and the failure that can frequently follow. These same safety nets can be limiting as well though; a spectacle is far less interesting when deprived of its inherent risk.
When writing for a very particular audience about a common subject– as is done on Tweak Knobs, Not Meth– it can be hard to avoid destructive, glib self-awareness. Admirably, Fat Randy‘s 2015 EP mostly avoids this pitfall and instead commits to something specific and genuine. Demonstrating a knack for separating their own talents and experiences from the chaff or unattainable, the trio deliver on an EP that is fully in their own wheelhouse.
The group draws on a myriad of musical influences, from Arab on Radar-esque 90’s no-wave to the psychedelic meanderings of Acid Mother’s Temple. The vocal delivery and guitar hues do some work to tie the songs together, but are ultimately unable to reign in a slightly mismatched musical palette. While the composition and textures can be disjointed, the 5-song collection is bound tightly together by tone and lyrical theme. In no ambiguous language, Fat Randy writes songs about the state-school college experience. They even clarify for the listener on track three: the album is about the University of Connecticut. Speaking brashly, and even absurdly, about topics ranging from hangovers to the administrative handling of sexual assault, Tweak Knobs, Not Meth aims for the bullseye and hits; a feat only diminished when one realizes how close the shooter was to the target in the first place.
At their best when they’re more serious-silly than silly-silly, Fat Randy delivers most satisfyingly on “Our Beloved CEO” wherein one Susan Herbst, the president of UConn, is called out by name concerning her dealing with campus sexual assault policy (“How does it feel to compromise your sex,O’ Susan?//A politician in sheep’s clothing, O’ Susan//Watch contradictions circle on the floor//Watch her drop when the money don’t sing”). “Wings”, a ska-influenced closer professing love for (what I can only imagine is) the UConn student body’s drunk-food of choice, tarnishes the album slightly; though I can imagine this is a crowd favorite at hometown house shows.
Falling just short of being ~impactful~, yet clearly rising above the expected diligence of undergraduate rock bands, Fat Randy lays dynamic lyrics over a selection of musical styles that can all loosely be categorized as “fun”. Potentially compelling, potentially alienating for non-Connecticuters, Tweak Knobs, Not Meth is sure to elicit nostalgia from college grads and make current UConn students shout something along the lines of “Fuck yeah.”