Agony Shorthand

Friday, May 07, 2004

(Editor’s note: the following piece has been “repurposed” from another piece written in 1997 by the author. That’s right, he is actually plagiarizing himself. Please direct all complaints to our company switchboard at Jukt Micronics) :

FLIPPER stood for several things at once: militant alcoholism, audience confrontation, and the genius to recognize, après THE FALL, the beauty of in-your-face redundancy. They played at a crawl when their many hecklers implored them to play fast; they ended shows when they couldn’t stand up any longer; and they wrote some absolutely damaged classics like “Sex Bomb”, “Ever” and “Earthworm” that are, if not inspirational, still a big hoot to listen to 24 years on. Flipper were the snotty 10th-grader who renounced his parents and was already heavily into glue and pills and other merrymaking – you know he’s a waste and that his bell has already tolled, but he’s also got this sarcastic sense of buffoonery that slays everyone around him, and who is intelligent and world-wise/world-weary beyond his years. You want to be around a person like that. Flipper was that guy.

Their first single, 1980’s “Love Canal / Ha Ha Ha”, took on the then-topical Niagara Falls toxics controversy. Flipper weren’t the type to provide straight “Reagan Sucks”-style commentary on such horrors; they far preferred to rub and gnash your nose in it. It has a sloooooooow, confusing bassline that could belong only to them, but it actually rocks in a way that proves less accessible in subsequent material. “Ha Ha Ha” is a bit more maddening and is even better; the cheap sarcasm is backlit by a screech of guitar and hissing amps, and ends in an annoying, repetitive echo of the song’s title. All the snotty 10th graders I grew up with hated Flipper, despite the fact that the band seemed to hustle their way onto every hardcore bill in San Francisco – true gluttons for punishment. I’m sure they wouldn’t have had it any other way.