This year, the Figgs celebrate 25 years as a band with the release of a new album, The Day Gravity Stopped. Since Go Metric couldn’t afford silver, we instead asked some of our contributors to write about their five favorite Figgs’ songs.
by Jason Fry
1. “The Daylight Strong” (Sucking in Stereo CD, 2000)
Can you ever love a song as much as you love the one that kicked off your infatuation with a band?
For me and the Figgs, it was “The Daylight Strong.” The high-stepping guitar lick grabbed me immediately, the harmonies on that first oooh lured me in further, and the chorus made me stop whatever else I was doing. Man, this is a good song, I thought to myself, and then added: Please don’t blow the bridge.
We’ve all been there – a song has a great riff and/or chorus, but then it reaches the bridge…and falls completely apart. When the band finally crawls away from the mess it’s made, it’s too late. The riff and/or chorus may still be great, but the song’s a miss.
“The Daylight Strong” doesn’t blow the bridge — it aces it. The guitar, drums, and bass line up for brief turns in the spotlight, then there’s that startling near-collision between the oohs and the drums as they start back up, and that lick returns to restake its claim, and if you’re not throwing up a fist or at least thinking about it as Gent hits each STRONG at the end, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
2. “Reaction” (Sucking in Stereo CD, 2000)
There must be tens of thousands of albums with one indisputably great song, and thousands with two. But how many pair them for a one-two punch as good as Gent’s “The Daylight Strong” and Donnelly’s “Reaction.”
“Reaction” strolls along with that up-and-down riff that sounds like it’s ascending and descending stairs, echoed by the rapid-fire drum line that sounds like it’s advancing and retreating, and the HEY HEYs tie it all together. It’s a perfect call-and-response song — as it should be, given the title.
Which leads me to an odd fantasy. I’m a huge baseball fan, and I’m convinced “Reaction” would be a perfect soundtrack for one of those between-innings videos meant to fire up the stadium. You can see it, can’t you? Line drives flying off bats whenever Hayes hammers on the drums during that fill, shots of cheering fans when Donnelly sings “reaction,” players throwing up their arms during the HEY HEYs… A guy can dream.
3. “Excuse the Lame Excuse” (For EP Fans Only CD EP, 2000)
Gent wants to know if that’s whiskey in your something, and it has to do with cold club soda and something shaking out, and later for some reason it’s important to appreciate Side 2 of Tattoo You. I’ve listened to “Excuse the Lame Excuse” hundreds of times and never figured out the words, and so I accept that without help I never will.
Thing is, I’m not sure I want to know them. “Lame Excuse” is such an exuberant mess of a song that not having any idea what Gent’s talking about improves it. And even in my confusion, I love that thumping riff, the line about checking out the girlie-girls (that “girlie” supplies the extra leer), the way the background vocals keep almost colliding with the rest, and of course the gleeful count-ins. Plus the whole idea of asking someone to “excuse the lame excuse” is a shambolic bit of meta-genius.
My only complaint is that they never play this one, no matter how many times I yell for it. Bastards.
4. “Jumping Again” (Follow Jean Through the Sea CD, 2006)
I first heard “Jumping Again” live, while the Figgs were still working the song out, and I loved it from the get-go. I was hooked by the chiming guitar, the way the stately pace of Donnelly’s verses gives way to the urgent chorus, and perhaps the best harmonies the band has ever offered. And that was before I was able to decipher the lyrics, which made me love it more.
“Jumping Again” is what “Talent Show” could have been if fully realized and better produced. The Figgs couldn’t have written this song when they were major-label kids – it’s the song of a band that’s older, wiser and maybe sadder. But only maybe. Donnelly sounds sadder at first, but then there’s the stubborn hope that next time a few more souls will be filing into the shows, and then “want I want to believe in what I want I want to believe,” a line that swallows its own tail. By the time you get to the yeah yeahs and the unhurried fade-out, you feel like hope has beaten weariness to the finish line, if only by a nose.
5. “Powder King” (B-side of “Miss Velvet” single, 1994)
The Figgs are a music-dork’s nightmare – there’s the cassette-only first album, the one that’s only on vinyl, and the one whose contents differ between formats, not to mention all the EPs, songs scattered across compilations and ones that only exist as singles. With most bands, those songs are ephemera you can live without, but the Figgs aren’t most bands: Some of their best stuff is also some of their most obscure. You can be a pretty committed fan and have no idea that “1000 People Grinning,” “Lynette,” “Punch” or “Citizens Band” exist.
Which brings me to “Powder King,” a Donnelly B-side that starts off as spiky punk, throws in some cheerful Muppet choruses and harmonies, then takes a left turn and finishes up as a guitar freakout. It was re-recorded for Banda Macho, but the single’s much better — short and sweet, perfectly constructed and executed, and made to play live. Maybe the Figgs finish up a show by burning through this one, and when you ask the guy next to you he tells you the best version is a B-side, and you’re left wondering, “That’s a B-side? How many more of those do they have?” You have no idea, my friend.