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 Mike Faloon
“Who Hung That Sign?” (Sponic zine 7" compilation, 1998)
This is my favorite Figgs song. It’s also, coincidentally, one of the kindest cuts in the band’s songbook, certainly the most empathetic Mike Gent tune. I tend to think of Mike Gent as the rock guy and Pete D. as the pop guy but that’s a simplification. “Who Hung That Sign?” is gentle and soothing, bass-driven with guitars sprinkled on top. If you’re grey and feel low/Forget her and your heart grows/Just break those ties/Become a new guy. I used to think it was one friend consoling another. Now I think it’s a dude advising himself. I’d like to know what the sign says. “Closed”? “Out of order”? I think it may be a metaphor for the Figgs adapting to life without Guy Lyons in the band. I think a lot of things.
“Much to Lose” (Rejects LP, 2000)
I didn’t ask for this/My momma pushed me in. Sounds like a punk rock version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But whereas Freddie Mercury released his existentialism via the Metropolitan Opera House, Guy Lyons doused his Jagermeister and unleashed it on the stage of dive bar. I love both takes. I just wish “Much to Lose” got even a sliver of the same time in the spotlight. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me/My brain is the center of too much activity” Toward the end of John D’Agata’s About a Mountain he devotes most of chapter to the backstory of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” When I read it I thought about the “yeah yeah yeahs” that close out “Much to Lose.” How did this song end up on the cutting room floor?
“Three Times a Riff” (Badger CD EP, 2001)
For a lot of Figgs fans the Badger EP is the record with “The Trench.” Decent tune but not even the best Pete Donnelly song on the disc. That distinction goes to “Three Times a Riff.” My theory is that it’s fueled by the contrast between a tough, kick ass guitar riff and the vulnerable lyrics (I feel so left out). I ran that theory by Pete Donnelly.
“I love the Celibate Rifles’ song "Bill Boney Regrets" from LP Turgid Miasma of Existence. It has such a kick ass bass riff. ‘Three Times a Riff’ comes from my attempt at writing a song based on that. It’s a heavy riff kinda thing with some stream of conscience lyrics about the flies that pester you in the summer—yeah, you can kill a bunch of ‘em but in the end they are the one's who'll get you. As a meal! Yeah, it's vulnerable, but pissed. I think the narrator is responsible for feeling 'left out', like he's petrified, unable to act.
“We cut it originally in a house in Maine where we started the Slow Charm record. Then we cut it in NYC and Tyson Meade sang on it. Then my OCD kicked in and I wanted to keep working on it, so I brought the tape it to Philly and worked on it with Andy Kravitz. We recut the rhythm section entirely but kept Mike's guitars, among some other things like Tyson’s vocals. I remember being in a really unstable place at this point in my life, a lot of things weren't going right, and this song was some kind of release. I got completely ripped and spent a night cutting the bass and singing, all by myself, in the studio. Dark days indeed.”
“If That’s What You Want” (Couldn't Get High CD, 1998)
Half Clash, half Stones. Killer riff with a great call and response chorus to match. This sucker soars from head to toe. There’s so much machismo it verges on being ‘tough guy’ but it winks just enough and in just the places to diffuse things. Add and subtract/But can you handle the division? Tough guys don’t acknowledge math. Also, in the third verse, when the band drops out, there’s a brief, goofy three-note guitar doodle—c’mon, dude, don’t take this so seriously. Perfect timing. That said, it’s weird choosing just one song from The Figgs Couldn’t Get High. It’s the band’s best album and focusing on 1/12 of it seems lopsided, uneven.
“I Got the Drums” (The Man Who Fights Himself CD, 2010)
My theory about this song is that it’s about a drummer packing up at the end of show. As a result of exhaustion, confusion, or drunkenness he finds his anthem—I got my drums, that’s all I need. I ran this theory by Pete Hayes, the Figgs’ drummer who wrote and sings the song. He responded with an annotated version of “I Got the Drums.”
“I Got the Drums”
By Pete Hayes
Annotated by Pete Hayes
I got my hand
On the hi-hat stand (I seem like I know what I’m doing)
I know it goes in a case
That case I cannot place (But I really have no idea)
I got the drums (No, I don’t)
I got the drums
I got the big bass drum (Who calls it a bass drum that has actually been taught to play drums?)
I don’t know where it goes
I don’t know from it comes (Don’t want to end with a preposition)
I got the drums
And if you know me and where I come from (Getting autobiographical here)
Then you would understand that I’m not playing dumb (I am really dumb)
But if it’s do dumb, why don’t everyone play the drums (Originally I wrote, Why does everyone, but Mike and Pete convinced me to change it. Funny, that line was originally a nod to those guys who are both fine drummers. Anyway, it works well both ways.)
I got a van (Not a true story, but I did used to score pot for their old manager so Cement Bunny, my old band, could be considered for Figgs openers. That’s how I actually got to be in the Figgs)
That’s how I got in this band (I actually got in on my rugged good looks alone)
I don’t got nothing else (Not even a van anymore)
I just enjoy myself (Please drive me to the next show)
I got the drums