3 out of 5
Produced by: Fuck, Matteo Agostinelli
A pretty every-other-year consistent release schedule, and respectable indie trajectory, kept Fuck on the fringes of relevancy for several years, forever foiled by their name – past whatever winky attention-baiting Matador could wrangle via press – but buoyed by, like, the quality of their work, wouldn’t ya know. Some small press first and second efforts led to that Matador signing, and after doing that tour, they released the amazing Cupid’s Cactus on a noteworthy followup, Smells Like. After that came Those Are Not My Bongos, which is not not on a respected label – Homesleep – but that’s also an Italian label, pushing the group further out of find-it-at-your-local-shoppe accessibility.
As a Fuck follower, there was another surface-level shift – the artwork just didn’t seem to have the same sense of humor / scrappiness behind its design, and was just kinda unappealing in general, being blurry photos in muddy reds and browns. Retroactively, I can also note that the group went on a long hiatus after this – 15+ years. Relistening to the album – something I can also retroactively realize I rarely do – that break was probably sensible.
Those Are Not My Bongos is not unrecognizable as a Fuck album. It actually starts out in very familiar territory, with ‘Motherfuckeroos’ going right in on the dumb, childish humor the group occasionally employed, mixed with their tell-tale soft-sung sing-songy style. And right after, we get a couple of nigh-masterpieces, that blend that hummable, delicate vibe with Geoff Soule’s offhand, weird insightfulness on relationships and life and the Fuck rhythm section; Bongos has a stripped down, very organic sound that’s put to excellent use here. Jazz Idiodyssey is a class Fuck instrumental lark, just as Her Plastic Acupuncture Foot is a classic slocore thinker, beautiful and surreal.
The next song, and the album’s longest – Vegas – is where the approach starts to go awry a bit. While the minimalist acoustic track once again has gorgeous production, with the percussion reverberating lushly, immersing you in the song’s somber, slow tone, sequencing-wise, it’s an odd backer to Acupuncture, as it doubles down on that song’s already slower pace. And that pattern somewhat continues thereon out: the remainder of Those Are Not My Bongos feels like songs from either Geoff Soule’s or Tim Prudhomme’s solo albums, and those are both excellent experiences in their own ways, but neither one are exactly Fuck albums, either. And that’s my issue here: as an outside listener, I’d first say that the disc just loses much of its hooks in the back half, and as a Fuck fan, I’d say the band starts to sound oddly serious and linear (okay, there’s a debate about “soft olives,” and A Vow is like a horror movie narrative, but in general) for this part of the album, meaning from both perspectives… it’s a somewhat fractured listen. Not bad, but a design that makes it somewhat immemorable.