I imagine that the Fun Lovin' Criminals are a lot like the type of
guys that hang at this great bar here in Milwaukee called Foundation.
They have a fondness for working-class uniforms (say, a Pabst Blue
Ribbon delivery-man suit) but they wear them with distance, even though
some of them may very well make their livings as Pabst Blue Ribbon
delivery men. A blood clot under the thumbnail is as totemic a tribal
mark as a Prince Albert or a "tribal" tattoo. And the music they dig
centers on the more boyish genres of punk, rockabilly, honky-tonk and
select others. The Foundation walls sweat testosterone.
Yet not oppressively so (which is why some women and a few gay folks go
there). These guys are like MC Lyte's actin'-like-he-don't-care
ruffneck, only a tad more bear-huggable and considerably more arty. The
right, er, person can get to the "aw shucks" core underneath.
Of course, this profile isn't a 100 percent Cinderellian fit for Fun
Lovin' Criminals. These sharp-dressed men are more urbane than the
average Foundation boy (even dropped Manhattan club lord Peter Gatien's
name on their debut to show off their roots in NYC nightlife). Still,
they didn't buy a haute couture boutique in Soho with their first taste
of major-label money; they bought a garbage company that now has 18
people on the payroll. I like that -- it perfectly gets at their
everyman refusal to avoid singing about doing time and supermodels on
their D, the subject of the first single, the
blaxploitationesque "Big Night Out."
That's the "criminals" part. The "fun lovin'," more sensitive side is
much more in evidence here than on the first album. It's all over the
languorous flow of the beats and the way Huey's raps snuggle real
sexy-like in your earlobe. "We Are All Very Worried About You" and "The
View Belongs To Everyone" shower the listener in heart-felt empathy, the
latter's new-day rising feel particularly gorgeous with its vaguely
Frippy guitar swirls. "Sugar" is neither an ode to Bob Mould nor to Sheena
Easton's "walls" but rather a love song to his pit bull. Their hero BB
King plays on "Mini Bar Blues," but their worship of him is so intense
that they had to send the tapes to him in Chicago. Otherwise, they would
have "just been crying on the mixing console and shorting everything
out," according to Huey. Aw, cute!
But, sadly, 100% Colombian is yet another record that I admire a
great deal but that my superego demands I downgrade nonetheless. I can
only go so far with these boys. Beyond our mutual love of music, there's little reason to invite them or their music into my life on a regular basis. Whatever
charms they possess in laid-back, sensual feel, they lack in melody and
catchiness -- and melody and catchiness is what gets my lazy ass up in
the afternoon. Plus, they need a much more intricate beat to match the
energy of their speedier songs, and there are too few of the latter here
to make up for their rhythmic shortcomings.
So while the Fun Lovin' Criminals fit in with the rest of the boys at
Foundation, their music is a tad too cushy to get heavy rotation in the
Foundation jukebox (a great one with Black Flag and The New York Dolls
on it, although some patrons got pissed when we played "Shout At The
Devil" once). But it says something that the Criminals' music does get
played at another bar here called -- surprise! -- Cush. Cush is a
typically misguided Milwaukee abomination of seat cushions (that word
again!) with no backs and zilch imagination on the walls. The girls look
like hair-care professionals and wear leather pants. But the boys ... ugh!
They're as bland as white rice with their neatly tucked-in
flannels and brown sensible shoes that handle well in the snow but still
look a la mode. As befits this conservatively hip surrounding, acid jazz
and hippety-hoppety white guys like G. Love and Special Sauce get
streamlined into a bland bop background that suggests a safe haven from
gangsta rap and uncut funk. Unfortunately, Fun Lovin' Criminals get
caught up in the stream quite easily when the right track from Fine
Young Cannibals, TLC, Fun Boy Three, Funkadelic, Fairport Convention,
First Choice, Jeffrey Fredericks & The Clamtones and "Funky Cold Medina"
(though not Frampton's Camel) would upset
the flow honorably, and that's just to mention music that prominently
features an "F" or "C." And if I could mention more than just Foundation
and Cush in relation to 100% Colombian (and Milwaukee), I suppose
I wouldn't be complaining at all.