By Keller Bradberry
Album: Almost Free
Release Date: January 25, 2019
After three years without a record, California skate-punk group FIDLAR released their third full length album, Almost Free. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Zac Carper and bassist Brandon Schwartzel are joined by brothers Elvis and Max Kuehn, who play lead guitar and drums, respectively. The band name “FIDLAR” is an acronym for “f**k it dog, life’s a risk.” With nearly ten years as a band, the group has had its ups and downs. Their first, self-named record, FIDLAR was 14 thrashing tracks about cheap beer and drugs, which pegged them in the public eye as a slacker party-punk band. Their 2015 sophomore album, Too, was written by a sober Zac Carper, who lost his pregnant girlfriend to heroin in March of 2013 while he was on tour. Carper was in and out of rehab, and still hooked on drugs during the early songwriting of Too.
On Jan. 25, the group released Almost Free under the label MOM+POP, which was recorded at sunset sounds studio in Hollywood and employed the help of Ricky Reed, a Grammy-nominated producer. In an interview with Upset Magazine, Carper said “I’d say it’s our most diverse record, 100 percent… We have horns on this record, f**king trumpets and saxophones and trombones and s**t; we went for it.”
My first experience with FIDLAR was playing their hit song “No Waves” on an acoustic guitar in my friend’s garage; and with this album being yet another FIDLAR experience, I’m satisfied. Their familiar punk rock sound has aged well with the album’s refreshing instrumentals and lyrical maturity.
The record opens with an air raid siren, symbolic of the 2018 false ballistic missile warning in Hawaii, Carper’s home state. “Get Off My Rock” employs said horns while Carper sings about gentrification in Hawaii as a Beck-like Dobro guitar riff fills the space.
With the release of this album, FIDLAR again challenged the notion that they’re a band that you drink to, not think to. The truth is, both are possible. Despite their feel-good, party-punk reputation, the album implores some frustrated social commentary, namely, “Too Real.” Carper fires a shot at the crazed, hostile political climate in the U.S of A. with “Let’s pretend… that politics are the why you drink alcohol, and you can blame it on the left or you can blame it on the right. No, just admit you just like to fight.” Boom, roasted.
One of my favorites from the album is “By Myself,” The sonics are engaging and bouncy, bongo drums and other beats carry the track while Carper sings, “Well I’m cracking one open with the boys by myself, and everybody thinks that I need professional help.” The lyrics cope with loneliness in the form of binge drinking and denial. The way that he sings about substance abuse and depression shows that he is aware of, and experienced with self-destructive habits.
From jaded social commentary in “Scam Likely” to woeful love songs, “Called You Twice,” Almost Free is a full package from FIDLAR. Seeing such a well-rounded project from this ten-year-old punk band is almost as exciting as the prospect of making it to one of their rowdy live shows. You can drink to, or think to this album, or their other albums for that matter. It’s up to you. Get started here.