The Fagettes - Volumes 1 & 2 [cassette] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Fagettes

Volumes 1 & 2 [cassette] (2012)

Stimulation Addict

I hated this band's name when I first saw it. They don't offer any explanation anywhere on the web about its roots, so I started to guess. I knew it wasn't hateful but just a joke, and in my eyes it was in poor taste. After contacting the band for the story, I'm OK with it. Melanie Bernier, the band's co-vocalist and sax player, explains, "Many bands have had controversial names before us: the Queers, New Order--both were risky in their time. I'm not claiming to know what those bands were thinking then, but I personally think it's important that hateful terms are broken down to the point that they're no longer destructive. And the Fagettes, I think, is a playful way of doing that."

Most of you around here probably consider me a hipster and yes, I instantly fell for the Fagette's reverby lo-fi rock music. The Boston quartet recalls that Nuggets-era of raw garage rock that the Black Lips do so well. On "Mystery Pills," co-vocalist/guitarist Ryan Major has that perfect sing/speak sassiness over a simple toe-tapping beat and crunchy guitars. He sneers "Saw some kids / They're smokin' grass," then garbles something before rhyming it with the obvious "kiss my ass." The lyrics fit the formula like a glove and the harmonica is the icing on the cake. "Water, Tea, Alcohol" has the perfect Sonics bounce to fuel the inevitable live show singalongs that must erupt when the beat gives way to a shout of "Alcohol!" "You're Destroying Me" has a classic '60s-style spoken word breakdown by Bernier before it kicks into a strong tambourine-filled ending.

"When I'm With You" is their "Just Like Honey." It's got the Ronnettes beat, sustained, lightly-distorted chords, male lead vocals with sweet female backup and the surfy guitar solo at the end that drives the song home. "Tsunami" is their "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" with a mellow walking tempo and bass-driven verse, later busting loose with Melanie's screams and big tremolo guitar.

These songs come from two EPs, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, both recorded in 2011 and re-released this year on cassette by Stimulation Addict. The tape format, while annoying in many ways, works well for a band of this nature. Gritty, reverb-soaked tunes that sound vintage anyway are almost enhanced by the limited EQ and muffle of tape. Plus it's a gold cassette that looks pretty sweet.

After getting past the name I like this band even more. If you're a fan of true garage rock in the '60s sense or punker modern acts that mine that era, you'll love the Fagettes.