Things looked pretty good for Los Angeles band FIDLAR when its first album hit No. 5 on Billboard Magazine’s Top Heatseekers chart. Unfortunately, FIDLAR’s second album, released Sept. 4, likely won’t be as successful.
FIDLAR is a skate punk band led by Elvis Keuhn on guitar and vocals, Max Keuhn on drums, Zac Carper on guitar and vocals and Brandon Schwartzel on bass. The group is very interconnected — Elvis and Max are brothers, and Schwarzel is their half-cousin — and deeply immersed in West Coast skate and surf culture. Carper is the son of a famous surfboard designer, and the Keuhn brothers are the sons of Greg Keuhn, keyboardist in notable Long Beach punk group T.S.O.L.
FIDLAR is the latest band to make serious waves in the California-punk genre, one defined by high energy songs and amateurish lyrics. The group is signed to Mom + Pop Music, a label based out of New York that features a number of diverse, up-and-coming musical acts such as Cloud Nothings, Courtney Barnett, Flume and Neon Indian. On its newest album, “Too,” the group’s first release after its debut full-length album, “FIDLAR” (2013), the band members continue to ravage chords and croon about their lack of sobriety.
“Too” is unmemorable and mediocre to the degree that the band’s future doesn’t look particularly enticing. It’s a shame, really, as FIDLAR had flares of brilliance on its debut album. Some tracks on “FIDLAR,” especially “Cheap Beer,” packed a serious punch without drowning in cliché — and there are plenty of cliches that come with beer-chugging culture. It is difficult to find staying power with such limiting subject matter, and, unfortunately, FIDLAR’s “Too” loses momentum very quickly.
The third track on “Too,” titled “West Coast,” aims to be a summery punk anthem — something that Wavves, another West Coast rock group, has built its repertoire on. Instead, it falls flat. “West Coast” is, technically speaking, very safe; the chords are simple, the lyrics are simple and the final product is a track overflowing with lame immaturity. “Overdose” is FIDLAR doing its best impression of Slint’s “Spiderland” (1991), a classic math rock/post-rock album that brought the band of angsty teenage boys to a place of full introspection, but it doesn’t quite pull it off. “Stupid Decisions” describes the FIDLAR band members’ experiences looking back at their immature choices, and is ultimately a lazy track without much conviction. “Yeah, I made some / Stupid decisions / And we can’t take them back / And now I’m home and I’m all alone / Wanna hit the road and make some / Stupid decisions / And I don’t want them back,” Keuhn sings. FIDLAR, it seems, can barely keep its good behavior in check for a few lines of vocals, and wailing guitar chords and uninspired drumming can’t save the song from its repetitive message.
FIDLAR’s “Too” has a few good moments — one of them being the groovy track entitled “Why Generation”– but they are few and far between in a collection of serious misses. The band’s songs are already featured in video game and TV soundtracks. Their tracks are fitting for the made-up worlds of video games; while FIDLAR can make good music in small doses, most of its songs carry an inherent phoniness, as if it’s all just “make-believe. Unfortunately for FIDLAR fans, “Too” is not the fitting end to a long summer of music that one might have hoped for. FIDLAR needs a new inspiration to carry its music forward, or else push its technical skill to new boundaries, as its relevance in the West Coast punk scene appears to be fading.