The Functional Citizens - Game Night (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Functional Citizens

Game Night (2018)

Smoking Cat Records

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, punk and nerd culture were not very compatible. (With a couple of obvious exceptions, most notably Devo.) Somewhere along the way, the lines started to blur. And why not? Why shouldn’t marginalized subcultures join forces? The Functional Citizens effortly combine punk rock and nerdy stuff on their second full length, Game Night. I’ve been aware of the West Michigan band for a couple of years now, but this is the first time I’ve actually heard them. I’m not sure why it took me so long to check them out. I think I may have thought they were a ska band. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

The Functional Citizen’s sound is classic, mainstream ‘90s punk and pop punk. I hear things like Face to Face, Screeching Weasel and NOFX. Game Night s another great sounding album recorded at Cold War Studios, which is run by Rick Johnson, bassist from local heroes Mustard Plug. It has become the go to place for punk bands from Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas. This is only the third release I’ve heard from the very small, South Bend, IN based Smoking Cat Records, but I must say, so far I’m very impressed.

Even the cover art for Game Night is pretty geeky. It’s got a hooded gamer that may be based on Cthulu casting one of those funky 20 sided dice. The title and TFC are pixelated, and the back is some board game that I should probably recognize. “Critical Hit”, “Game Night”, “Galaxies”, “Gamer Girl” and “8-Bit Adventure” are the most obvious references to the record’s loose theme. Last year I was enamored with a band called Gygax. They sounded like Thin Lizzy and all their songs were about Dungeons & Dragons. The Functional Citizens avoid being so specific. Many of their songs are simply about mundane nature of modern life. Think somewhere between Seinfeld and The Office. Songs like “Corporate Chameleon” (great title), “Stuck in the drive Thru”, “Hungover” and “Coffee” fall into this category.

The best songs are probably the ones that incorporate elements of both. “Take You Home” is a perfect example. It feels like a classic tale of yearning, until it get to the twist at the end. What all the songs have in common is a catchiness that will make you want to sing along. I’m not at all involved with the gaming culture, but I still enjoy what The Function Citizens did on Game Night. I’m definitely going to have to catch these guys next time they play around town. However, if they invite me over to play D&D afterwards, I’m still going to have to pass.