Personnel: Kacy Ewing, Heather Strange, Lysandre Bezier, Vanessa Gomez, The Earthling Beauties Singers (vocals); Jason "Geronimo" Kelly (guitar, drums, percussion); Bob Jones (guitar); Jef Brown (tenor saxophone).
Audio Mixer: Mitch Rackin.
The leap from the soul-inflected indie sound of their earliest work to the genre-hopping bratty howling of their 2011 debut, Unlearn, proved to be an indicator of how things might work in the strange brains of Fergus & Geronimo. With sophomore album Funky Was the State of Affairs, the always conceptual Brooklyn-by-way-of-Texas duo dives deeper into the same re-envisioning of sounds, this time in the form of a ramshackle narrative about intergalactic dating that owes more musically to Devo than it does the doo wop or British Invasion rewrites that made up Unlearn. From the jump, Funky Was the State of Affairs gets right into weird territory that borders on some kind of satire. "No Parties" is a keyboard-driven new wave punk workout that sounds right out of 1981, but sung in a ridiculous fake English accent. The accent makes it difficult to tell how much of the song is a lampoon, ultimately distracting from the song's strengths. "Roman Tick" and "Earthling Men" also exist in the same kind of post-punk high-energy keyboard space, without the fake accents, but with subtly comical lyrics. The short album's 16 tracks are divided among these kinds of punk rompers, a plethora of strange skits about wiretapping and the aforementioned alien dating service, and a bizarre turn somewhere in the middle of the album to more soul, funk, and disco-derivative tunes. Much as Zappa mocked and revered different forms of music by mimicking them on early Mothers of Invention records, Fergus & Geronimo also try their hand, quite convincingly, at a wide selection of sounds here, more so than on previous efforts. The humorous elements all seem like inside jokes or a secret self-conscious love of the sounds the band is emulating. The songs are never over the top enough to push into actual parody, which is probably for the best. When not trying to figure out Fergus & Geronimo's warped intentions or perspective on the music they're making, the listener can just enjoy the solid musicianship and the off-kilter juvenilia that make the band worthwhile. ~ Fred Thomas