Condo Fucks - "What'cha Gonna Do About It?" (Fuckbook)
In 1997, in the liner notes to I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Yo La Tengo included a phony catalog of Matador releases. It seemed like a version of a game that a lot of people play, making up fake band and album names. Hot new releases in the catalog included G.I. Joe Extreme’s Declares War, The Shitheels’ Bucketfull of Shit, Elevator to the Brain Hotel: A Tribute to Brian Brain, and the original cast recording of the musical Heroin!. There was also Movin’ In, a new album from a punk trio from New London, Connecticut named the Condo Fucks. Their other releases, according to the catalog, were Straight Outta Connecticut, For Squatters Only, and Condo Fucks City Rockers. They had the best name and the most extensive back catalog, and the Condo Fucks were clearly the most well thought-out part of the catalog. (Fun fact: They were also the most politically relevant. Eight years later, the Supreme Court issued Kelo v. City of New London, the leading decision on the use of a state’s eminent domain powers to seize property for private development in depressed urban areas. New London will forever be associated with battles over, uh, condo dwellers.)
Now, a dozen years later, Matador has released Fuckbook an actual Condo Fucks album. There’s a backstory here, something about the band reuniting for a concert last year and this being a recording from the rehearsal. Nobody is owning up, but if I told you the context in which the world first heard about the Condo Fucks, the names of the three band members (credited as Kid Condo, Georgia Condo, and James McNew), and the title (oddly reminiscent of Fakebook), you could probably piece together a different story about who’s behind this album. The songs here are all cover versions of material from venerable 1960s and 1970s bands, although the Condo Fucks arrange everything with a sped-up tempo and a more muscular guitar part. The selections include the Small Faces (“What’cha Gonna Do About It”), the Beach Boys (“Shut Down”), the Kinks (“This is Where I Belong”), and Slade (“Gudbuy T’Jane”). The production is decidedly low-key: Everything sounds like it was recorded in a single take, and the vocals are fighting through a thick layer of fuzz.
An album full of cover versions is not really essential listening, although there are a few songs here reminiscent of the better covers from past Yo La Tengo albums; their take on The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” and “This is Where I Belong” are both particularly good. In part, this is because the limitations of the production emphasize the strength of the songwriting, and in part because heavy distortion and a buzzing electric guitar turns straightforward pop into a surging anthem (Yo La Tengo did the same thing with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” years ago). Fuckbook should at least hold people over until Yo La Tengo releases a new album, or Matador finally puts out The Quadsmen’s Take Me to Your Liter, like they promised in that catalog a few years back.
Note: If you’re in the New London area on Wednesday, March 11, there will be a "listening party" at Dutch Tavern (23 Green St.) from 9-11 p.m.