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Yet somehow a glint of heart or a prick of visceral pleasure breaks through the syrup of many of these tracks: "Stumble Inn," "Gone," and "Gimme Some" throw curve balls that make a complacent listener sit up and squint. Pop-wise, it's a small pebble skipping lightly over a huge belt of water, while underneath the ripples, some dark brand of redemption follows in its path. Bedhead's stylings come to mind, though Prudhomme says, "Yeah, about 20 people have told me that. But I haven't gotten around to hearing their stuff." And besides, it's less ambitious, more from-the-hip than Bedhead's sonic heft and cathartic builds.
Fuck's real obstacle is a long-suffered albatross--the Pavement comparisons. While the flat, rambling vocals and jingly, twangy riffs from Pardon My French, as well as "Monkey Doll" and "Laundry Shop" off Conduct, definitely evoke the Stockton boys' clever tunes, clearer connections could be drawn between Fuck and the more grounded side of the Flaming Lips or the warier side of the Grifters, with a flame of vocal irony singeing much of the material. From the song "Blind Beauty": "Talkin' to a blind beauty about beauty / Talkin' to the red brigade about the blues / Talkin' 'bout a fairy tale...Let's talk about something else."
Despite its love affair with such opaque discourse, one could never accuse the band of being unaccommodating. The band customizes its live shows to fit the occasion. "It completely depends on the club," Prudhomme says. "We have to think while we're playing. We can't have a set list; we have to adjust according to the noise of the crowd." Known for dropping the volume of a set to near-whisper in front of a rapt audience, Fuck will also ditch the quiet tunes or turn up their amps when faced with a raucous crowd. "Say, Philadelphia," he says. "Philadelphia loves to drink, and drinking causes loudness. It took us a while to figure that out. We play louder sets there. Charlottesville--very attentive, quiet crowd." And in Texas? "We like Rubber Gloves in Denton. Very polite, appreciative audience." He pauses. "But College Station was pretty bad."
The bicoastal arrangement forces the band to plan rehearsals and road shows well in advance. "We figured out that for touring Europe, it's actually cheaper to buy all new equipment than to rent the stuff over there," he says. "And we could even throw it all in the garbage at the end of the tour and still have saved money."
These days, signing with an indie is a band's safest bet for securing distribution and recording funds, yet after Fuck's three-round spar with Matador over posters, the label's insistence on some kind of photographs, the design of the CD cover, and other such minutiae, the band is uncertain how it should proceed. With Fuck's two-record deal fulfilled and the label showing interest in extending the contract, Prudhomme says, "We've asked them if we can self-release our next EP. But who knows? Once we're reminded of what it's like to have to do all the work ourselves, we may change our minds about the next record. We need to figure that out."
So much of Fuck's approach epitomizes the increasingly precarious state of real-deal indie-rockers, and the band's name pretty much burns all bridges between the band and The Man, sealing its fate of obscurity--or everlasting validity, take your pick--with a single, simple gesture, the music notwithstanding. Forget cathartic expression, making grand statements, attracting groupies. Bypass opportunity to land on the radio, the TV, to find your name becoming a household word, and your records in every store. Blow off posturing and getting rich.
Regardless of the insidious strength of the songs, the general public still has to leap the initial hurdle, and most won't bother. Which is the point. "The best way we've been introduced thus far was at a live show for WNYU in New York," Prudhomme says. "The DJ said, 'It rhymes with suck,' which to me is an even dirtier word."
Fuck performs October 7 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Go Metric USA and Stumptone open.