The World/Inferno Friendship Society return with their eclectic brand of cabaret punk that's been gracing the punk scene for a decade now. The band features the striking, smooth vocals of Jack Terricloth as the lead singer with support from many New York-based musicians including the Hold Steady's Franz Nicolay on keyboard and accordion and Ara Babajian and Lucky Strano from Crack Rock Steady bands Leftover Crack and Morning Glory, respectively. World/Inferno combines these individuals with a wealth of other musicians to craft their utterly unique and difficult-to-define sound that has inspired such a fervent cult following.
Their back catalogue combines their Vaudevillian cabaret sound with a strong, but undeniably enjoyable anarchic rhetoric and numerous archaic pop-culture references to create an infectious swing-punk sound which has seen countless punk kids waltz-dancing in front of the stage during live shows. They stretch their ambition further on this album, their sixth full-length release, as the band detail the life of Peter Lorre, an Austrian-born Hollywood star who came to fame in the 1930s and who suffered at the hands of depression, bankruptcy and addiction before his death in 1964.
The album begins with 'Peter Lorre's Overture,' an instrumental piece which slowly foreshadows the next ten tracks and closes with a new recording of "Peter Lorre," which was first found on 2002's Just the Best Party. World/Inferno have attracted some criticism for re-releasing tracks after 2006's Red-Eyed Soul featured many songs already released a year previously on the Me vs. Angry Mob EP. This may go some way to explaining why "Fiend in Wien" from the 2006 album was cut from this album at late notice. The album does feature a new recording of "Ich Erinnere Mich an Die Weimarer Republik" ("I Remember the Weimar") from East Coast Super Sound Punk of Today, and, to bring the album to a close, an especially outstanding new recording of "Heart Attack '64." The drums are dropped and the vocals are softer and smoother over the sounds of the accordion and clarinet in a version updated beautifully to fit with the new album's vintage flavour.
The album moves more or less chronologically throughout Lorre's life. "M Is for Morphine" is an optimistic song of unshakeable self-belief reflecting Lorre at the beginning of his career and the honeymoon period with the drug he would later become addicted to. The combination of electric guitar, by Lucky Strano on great form throughout the whole album, the delicate piano parts and Terricloth's powerful voice is very well-assembled. However, towards the end the lyrics begin to show an uncertainty about his activities and a fearsome drum opening and closing of the song foreshadow the dangers of the drug, which become apparent during "Cathy Catharine," detailing Lorre's difficulty in mixing drug dependency and fatherhood. "Everybody Comes to Rick's" highlights Lorre's addiction and gradual disillusionment with Hollywood, which also comes up in "I Just Make Faces" where Terricloth repeatedly uses Lorre's famous quote "I don't act, I just make faces" as the chorus of the song.
"Thumb Cinema" is one of the highlights of the album. The political commentary in Addicted to Bad Ideas is more subdued, with the band choosing instead to focus upon the biographical aspect of the album; however, it surfaces on this excellent track. The band's sentiments in "Thumb Cinema" are delivered with enough charm and eloquence and the song is so catchy to not only make it one of the best songs on this album, but maybe of their entire discography. The penultimate track just before the wonderfully reworked version of "Heart Attack '64" is another highlight of the album. The title track, "Addicted to Bad Ideas," is a beautifully bittersweet track. It acts as a reflection of Peter Lorre's life, and while it recognises and embraces the downfall that come from being "addicted to bad ideas, and to drugs, and to all of the beauty in this world" there is an irrepressible optimism in the sensational, sing-along chorus that will make this song a favourite at live shows.
The album is a great success; the decision to make a concept album about the life of Peter Lorre forced the band to put a slightly more serious tone on their music and go in a more ambitious, mature direction than the 'break everything' appeal of Just the Best Party. The World/Inferno Friendship Society stay faithful to the concept behind the album, and despite the inherent sadness in the tale they brilliantly narrate, the band's enthusiasm helps to turn the tale into a strangely uplifting record which is not only a stunning testament to Peter Lorre's legacy, but also a wonderful album in itself.