The Fucking Champs
VI
2007
B



the Fucking Champs are, like Weird Al, seriously underestimated. VI is not going to change things. Only begrudgingly acknowledged as “real music” by outsiders, the group is loved by a zealous fan base consisting mostly of skinny white indie dudes. It’s too bad—the Champs have a serious and important mission: the installation of the Rock Riff as high art.

Formed in Santa Cruz in the early 90s, the Champs have underwent a career-long servitude to—and subversion of—heavy metal. In classicist fashion, almost every Champs cut begins with a crushing Iron Maiden send-up, and develops in such a way that, by song’s end, the original riff is hardly recognizable. On VI’s opener, “The Loge,” the Champs first choose their weapons—one or two bone-crushingly stupid riffs—and then duel with them to the fucking death. Riffs are scaled up or harmonized without notice, then without notice AGAIN and AGAIN, carried off with technical prowess rivaling that of the original progenitors of the genre. It’s like math-rock, if math-rock weren’t some pussy little punk-ass red-headed step-sibling that gets his jaw kicked in at horseback-riding camp.

With the recent departure of guitarist Josh Smith, the Champs are joined by Trans Am’s Phil Manley on VI, completing an unholy union between the two bands that began with the well-named collaborations Transchamps and the Fucking Am. Tim Green and Tim Soete have welcomed Manley into their group, with VI displaying the increasingly complicated riffage of the Fucking Am record Gold. And Manley has fallen in with the Tims, taking up the Champs’ cause célèbre of anonymous, relentless riffage. He’s probably a good sport about all the jokes about his name, too.

While the record is similar to its predecessors, VI has also got some real Easter eggs for the tuned-in listener. “Fozzy Goes to Africa” in particular seems a partially obscured, long overdue thesis statement. There’s a little bit around 1:55 where the band is rocking on a bluesy metal riff, and just when it gets especially nasty and a dirty lead guitar lick should come in, we just get this great moment where a guy sighs hmmm in response. The “secret track” at the end picks this riff up at the 13:00 mark and expands upon it, playing out a number of rather emasculating snippets of studio conversations along with the riff. The frank discussions of recording details (including the metal faux-pas of making sure they’re not too loud) sketch a picture of technical patience and professionalism that is decidedly un-metal and maybe even a bit yuppie.

Although they’ve played with many such themes, this record is the first time the Fucking Champs have actually managed to capture the actual emotional colors of their own banality, rather than trying to piss a whole two-minute solo all over the place. This half-smiling, half-serious invective still pokes fun at metal, but also elevates it above the supposed idiocy of thrash and the gloom of the death/doom/black metal crowd. It’s all the more compelling because they hold off on the old rawk clichés and make some new ones of their own.



Reviewed by: Mike Orme
Reviewed on: 2007-04-18
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