By Mike Faloon
Question: Which of our five contestants is telling the truth?
#1: My name is Busy Doing Nothing! I’m a Nardwuar album.
#2: My name is Busy Doing Nothing! I’m an Evaporators album.
#3: My name is Busy Doing Nothing! I’m a tribute album.
#4: My name is Busy Doing Nothing! I’m a calendar.
#5: My name is Busy Doing Nothing! I’m a zine.
Answer: All of the above.
Side Nard, known on the south side of the border as the A-side, is a tribute to Canadian bands of the past. Side Wuar has six Evaporators tunes followed by a Nardwuar interview with Franz Ferdinand.
The calendar focuses on Bev Davies’ photographs from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. D. Boon, James Brown, New Order, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett and, perhaps best of all, extras from the set of Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains. There is also a Nardwuar interview with Davies detailing the backstory of each photo.
The graphic design is the crowning touch. Anyone who’s ever seen a Nardwuar record before knows to expect a great looking album. Busy Doing Nothing! is no exception. Everything’s perfect — color schemes, lettering, layout. With most records you might notice one or two of those elements but it’s all aces here, even the record’s spine, which is so wide you bike on it. (Production design credit goes to Robynn and Randy Iwata)
So, the packaging is immaculate. Is the music any good? If the style scores a 10, then how about the substance? The line up doesn’t have the same marquee appeal of past Nardwuar compilations, but that didn’t matter initially because I was so caught up in the bounty of graphics and interviews. Eventually focus came my way and with it a bevy of fun tunes. Chief among the tribute/cover songs were Franz Ferdinand (nicely bending Pointed Sticks’ “Real Thing” into a kind of Echo and the Bunnymen tune) and—just to make things more self referential—Fuad & the Feztones covering the Evaporators’ “Welcome to My Castle” with a good coat of Sam the Sham silliness. Kate Nash puts a whole different bounce into cub’s “My Chinchlla,” and it works really well until they lapse into “let’s play fast’n’yell,” which undermines an otherwise really clever reworking.
The rest of the record is devoted to the Evaporators. To enjoy the Evaporators you have to be prepared to fully embrace the ridiculous, you have to be at ease with phrases along the lines of, “this is so stupid it’s wonderful.” Hopefully that comes easy to you. If so, the Evaporators, fronted by Nardwuar himself, have what you need but didn’t realize: “I Hate Being Late When I’m Early,” “Hot Dog High,” the title track, and “Pig War” are all excellent.
Side Nard scores a 7 while Side Wuar earns a 9. That’s an 8 for substance to go with the 10 for style. Overall, that warrants seeking out Busy Doing Nothing!
Now, where do I submit this review for “Canadian Heritage” funding?