Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Come Find Yourself

I gotta admit, when this album first came out, I avoided it like the plague.

Here at the Ripple office, despite the fact that the vast majority of what we listen to is rock, that doesn’t mean that we’re closed-minded to other styles. The Pope and I are just as open to a great rap vibe coming our way as we are to some extreme metal. The thing is, it has to be a good vibe.


When the Fun Lovin’ Criminal’s debut, Come Find Yourself, came out I had about as much interest in it as a free root canal. I’d already burned out on the chest-beating, pimp-whoring gangsta rap scene and for the life of me couldn’t think of a single reason to give an album by a bunch of self-proclaimed Criminals a spin.


That was my mistake.


It wasn’t until I first saw the video for the amazing track “The Fun Lovin’ Criminal,” that I first began to see the error in my ways. Rather than a gansta-rap group, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals are hardly even a rap group. Sure, their tongue-in-check, wise-ass leader Huey raps more than he sings, but still, forget any notion you had of rap before hearing these guys. The Fun Lovin’ Criminals are an urban, hip-hop blues band, full-on street jazzy funk with enough rock muscle to make even the most serious rock-head sit up and take notice. They are gangster cool in the slickest sense of the word, a Quentin Tarantino film in words. They are savvy, and slick and just infinitely cool.


This is music of groove. Rap for rock fans who don’t like rap. For those who know G Love and the Special Sauce, there’s a definite similarity there (FLC came first) but FLC fill their urban blues with more beef and more sauce than a whole case of special sauce. This is head-bopping, finger-snapping acoustic funk, that’s as at home cruising in your lowrider as filling a smoky underground jazz club while the beret wearing cognoscente bop their heads sipping their absinthe. This is beat music for the modern generation, beat poetry gone urban and lost in the alleys of organized crime. In the end, it just is the FLC, and it’s just good.


The FLC didn’t make much of a chart impression in America because they failed to live up to the critics expectations that they’d be the next Beastie Boys. What’s up with that? Just because they're white it doesn't mean they wanted to be the Beasties. No, these cats wanted to create their own brand of martini-chic, cartoon-gangster smoothness. Just check out the video for “The Fun Lovin’ Criminal,” below to see what I’m talking about. For starters, while the boys do add samples to their mix, that’s them, playing their own instruments. Strumming the acoustic guitar, slapping that stand-up bass, brushing that snare drum. Getting downright funky with a beat and a rhyme. This song is the definition of cool.


“Passive/Aggressive,” flows next, riding across the smoothest groove this side of an old Isaac Hayes LP. Dig that snare and touch of wah-wah while Huey lays on the Pulp Fiction rap. If your ass has forgotten how to groove, I guarantee you it’ll suddenly remember its moves as this puppy leaks out. Then, just when you think you got the guys pegged, the aggressive half kicks in, riding a grinding, and screeching chunky guitar riff all the way through the chorus. This is FLC metal long before wimps like Limp Bizkit tried to make a scene of it. And the amazing thing is it never loses it’s groove.


“The Grave and the Constant,” is a straight-forward platter of street soul, groovy and cool as the boys are getting it on to the grave spot. This is sweet and sultry and still thick with the cigarette smoke of the underground beat club. “Scooby Snacks,” comes next, a charting single on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, more than anywhere else, the boys ride their B-movie gangster chic, tongues planted so firmly in cheek, they’d need a mouthectomy just to see their molars again. Tarantino sued for the use of samples from his films, which is ridiculous. But you can’t deny he’s responsible for the whacked out criminal vibe riding here.


And so it goes, the boys live and breathe the urban stench of New York, from the prison downer rap of “Smoke ‘Em,” to the “free John Gotti” rap of “King of New York.” Classic rock fans need to listen hard and they’ll even hear the “Freebird” sample in “Bombing the L,” a semi-metal, rocking-with-big-guitars ode to tagging the L-trains. Playing hard or riding it smooth, the FLC are nothing less than brandishers of their own crazy cool.


While America failed to see what they had in their midst, Europe turned on to the FLC vibe heavy and hard, where they established a huge fan-base, keeping their albums, like 100% Colombian, Loco and Mimosa, and their greatest hits packages in the charts. But have no fear, to the best of my knowledge, the crazy Criminals of Fun Lovin’ are still at it, working in the studio and the underground mob clubs, throwing back their martinis, tuning their sax, recording their new album that we at the Ripple just have to get. So, you ask, how much do I dig these guys? Well, I just tracked down and bribed three people to get my hands on 2 stunningly cool FLC picture disc LP's to decorate the walls here at the Ripple office. I got me a whole jar full of Scooby Snacks sitting on my desk and I keep slapping Pope's fingers to keep his hands out. I got a fresh polyester suit, a new hat and a gold-tipped cane that I don't even know how to use.


Now I just got to get me one of their freaky cool FLC t-shirts and I’ll be a full-fledged Fun Lover in training.


--Racer


Buy here: Come Find Yourself

www.myspace/funlovincriminalsnyc







8 comments:

Chris said...

I'll have to revisit this. I'm fairly certain I bought this one soon after it came out.

Todd D. Severin said...

Chris,

Definitely, dig through your stacks and track this one down again. Both the Pope and I agree that it's a keeper.

--Racer

Winston's Zen said...

Nice pick Racer!

I had a bit of a hip-hop phase a while back (it lasted roughly 10 years!) and Come find Yourself is one of my favorite albums. I still play it from time to time now.

There was a while when I thought Huey was about the coolest human being alive.

I love their version of We Have All The Time In The World.

Oh, and Mimosa ain't bad either.

The RIpple Effect said...

Winston - I'm with you on "We Have All The Time In The World." What a freaking cool rendition of that tune!

Racer - Nice work on the review. Thanks for, as always, pointing out something that I had never noticed before.

Pope

mark james said...

want to know what the FLC are up to these days?

http://www.difontaine.net

the fun lovin criminals fan forum since 1999.

The RIpple Effect said...

Thanks for the info, Mark.

Dilutions of Adequacy said...

Gotta agree with you Racer, these guys are grossly overlooked. I recently did a similar retrospective as you, but with "100% Colombian".

http://dilutionsofadequacy.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/fun-lovin-criminals-100-colombian/

The RIpple Effect said...

Dilusions,

Nicely done on your site. Couldn't agree more. If the world only knew how infinitely cool the FLC's were, we wouldn't have to write about them.

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