Fake Problems – It’s Great to Be Alive

Fake Problems - It's Great to Be Alive

Fake Problems - It's Great to Be Alive

If I were 18 again, this is the shit I’d be all over. That’s not to say I’m not all over It’s Great to Be Alive anyway, but I feel a bit “older sister digging on her kid brother’s band” about the whole thing. Floridian Fake Problems apparently released a decent punk record as its debut. I wholly admit I missed it completely – they weren’t even on my radar. But I generally dig a fair bit of what Side One Dummy records releases, so Fake Problems caught my eye when its record came rolling in. It’s safe to say that one listen is all it really took to get hooked on this album which manages to wear many hats in just 37 minutes.

Opening track “1234” makes it clear that It’s Great to Be Alive isn’t just a rehashed, tired punk affair. The horns are unexpected, but definitely set the tone – you very quickly learn to expect the unexpected with Fake Problems. At any given moment you could describe this album as punk, pop, cabaret, disco, dance, or any number of other nuanced styles that shine through. There’s a nice segue into “The Dream Team”, the most anthemic of the twelve tracks. Frontman Chris Farren’s swagger and sarcasm – and that damn cowbell! – rock out perfectly with the sing-along chorus “I wanna be the American dream, but I need you right next to me if I’m ever going to feel free.” “You’re a Serpent, You’re a She-Snake” makes swamp boogie-disco a fine, fine reality. This is just one of many instances on It’s Great to Be Alive where you know these lads received some heavy doses of 80’s pop and rock growing up.

Midway through It’s Great to Be Alive the songs take a more religious bend. “The Heaven & Hell Cotillion” and it’s amped up country hoe-down is pitted in a cage match against “Level With the Devil”‘s ska undertones, and both have decidedly Christian lyrics. While there’s clearly quite a bit of sarcasm being thrown around (“Watch out for the devil, Momma says he’s got his eye on me. These songs you’ve been writing, well, me and Jesus don’t approve”), you’ll have to decide for yourself whether this is a thorn or a rose to your particular tastes. The rest of the album continues to pull various styles out and shake ’em up. “Tabernacle Song” pipes in a bit of military cadence before putting the piano to good use for a sing-along. “Too Cold Too Hold” is sweet folk-rock, while “Heart BPM” brings the term emotional rock to mind. There really is just about something for everyone if you find yourself drawn to a wide range of genres.

I mentioned that It’s Great to Be Alive makes me feel like the older sister digging her kid brother’s band. The guys in Fake Problems are definitely younger than I, and their age shows in their lyrics. Musically, Fake Problems is light years ahead of its peers. Lyrically too, in the sense that these songs are all well-written and catchy. I just cannot completely relate to love triangles and worrying about what my mom thinks they way one might as a teenager or young adult. It’s a good thing shaking your ass transcends age. And an even better thing for us older sibling types that Fake Problems is awesome enough to truly dig on.