The World/Inferno Friendship Society – Speak of Brave Men EP

A few more days and I blast spine-chilling music on costume-bearing children all day long in spirit of the annual spook-fest. My list of “Symphonic Haunts of the Boo(m)box to Be Unleashed on October 31st” includes The Birthday Party, Wolf Eyes, Mr. Bungle, Arthur Brown, and various industrial noisemakers, all perfectly frightening for the occasion. Speak of Brave Men is the latest addition to my list, thanks to The World/Inferno Friendship Society, a group intimately in touch with its members’ inner ghouls. They’ve proven their love of frightfulness on previous records Hallowmas Live at Northsix and Pumpkin Time; hell, they even formed on Halloween of ‘97!

But four albums and five singles into their career, this Brooklyn-based vaudevillain punk syndicate has yet to break from the fringe of the fringe of the NYC scene. Why? Is this bizarre punk cabaret thing just not commercial enough? Having nine members in the group isn’t exactly economical, sure, but hey, if The Polyphonic Spree can do it… Maybe funeral party soundtracks simply aren’t in vogue. Shame, ‘cause this band’s building up steam; a classic could plop right out o’ their asses at any time now and no one would even notice.

Speak of Brave Men is a fairly good indicator of WIFS’s potential. This EP is only three songs long, but it’s as sweet and sour as a bite-size jawbreaker; I’m in awe of how the band managed to cram so much flavor into such a small space. Each song features sing-a-long choruses, contains more hooks than a coat hanger, and refuses to stay stylistically still for more than a few bars.

Consider the first song, “Brother of the Mayor of Bridgewater,” which begins with galloping percussion and a spasmodic guitar line, then completely bursts 10 seconds in with this huge, anthemic chorus of wordless party vocals, guitar, saxophone, and whatever else these monsters try to contain in there. Next there’s a Patton-esque verse, that huge refrain, another verse with some added organ, the chorus again, a stop-start military march with a bonus piano line, a guitar solo, a final preparatory verse and bridge, then ba-ba-baaa till the end and huff… puff… out of…

As I try to catch my breath, the next song “Paul Robeson” launches into a music-box melody and nearly doubles the tempo. A blur of a verse speeds by, and suddenly there’s a shout-along anthem. And it swings! This song is so damn fast I’m not even gonna try to keep up with it. Let’s see, there’s a pseudo-salsa dip fit for Dia de los Muertos, some handclaps, a jazzy piano solo, loads of horns, and… what, next song already?

“Friend in Wien” starts with a Poguesy one-two march with accordion. The singer scowls through a verse in Nick Cave-style incantation (“I got drunk with some girls from the local art school and got caught painting on the walls”) followed by some girls doing a “Be True to Your School”-ish shout of “Gustav Klimt Rules!” The bridge rides along smoothly like Faith No More, then suddenly the sun rises and it’s over. Too quickly. But boy did those devils know how to party.