World/Inferno Friendship Society - Just the Best Party [Reissue] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

World/Inferno Friendship Society

Just the Best Party [Reissue] (2019)

Gern Blandsten / Gunner

2002’s Just the Best Party was the first of many definitive statements made by World/Inferno Friendship Society. Similar to the careers of David Bowie, Bob Dylan, or Glenn Danzig, the group has existed in a number of different manifestations (a change usually trigged by the exit of old bandmembers and the entrance of new ones), but all of those manifestations center around a core structure: Glam rock for Bowie, modern folk for Dylan, horror-punk of Danzig. And it was Party that set the keystone that is World/Inferno: a large group of swinging cats that liked big band and noir and loved the core tenets of anarcho-punk.

They had been building to the station for some time. Debut single “Tattoos Fade” existed more in the witchy realm, but the string of singles that followed found the band paying homage to the golden age of film as much as magick. 1996’s “Glamour Ghouls” said as much and 1999’s “Ich Errinere Mich An Weimar” slammed the point home as well as establishing a still running kinship with actor Peter Lorre.

So, by the time 2002 rolled around, the band cemented all their previous building blocks for their second LP and Just the Best Party would serve as the band’s first masterstroke. Throughout the release, the band merged the storming charge of punk (“Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in this Room”) with the swing-dance whimsy of the ‘20s (“Go with it Girl.”) Like few bands before them, Inferno made the argument that fighting the system, smashing against oppression, and doing yer own thing didn’t actually have to be all frowns-and-black clothes- it could be really, really fun, and also, you could dress nice (the nicely-dressed-punks sentiment, perhaps borrowed from Dave Vanian?)

Yet, equally as interesting, is that while the band was fueled by the early anarcho-punk proclamations, (“pirates and bankrobbers, not lawyers or CEOs!”), they were wont to engage in more complex moral considerations. Take Conflict for example. They rock for sure, and they’ll also tell you exactly what is right and exactly what is wrong and who is good and who is bad. World/Inferno’s universe was more complex than that. A career highpoint for the band was “I wouldn’t want to live in a world without grudges.” The common wisdom is that holding onto bad feelings does more harm to the bearer than the target. By contrast, vocalist Jack Terricloth argued that ill will was exactly what made him get up in the morning.

The band’s rapscallion image was pushed even further by the crazy stories (some true, some false) that they laid down on the tracks. “Secret Service Freedom Fighting USA”) is about the very real story of Terricloth accidentally making a death threat to a sitting US president. Lucky Strano’s razor sharp, striking guitar helped these tales of adventure maintain both a sense of fun and element of danger. Accordionist Franz Nicolay added an interesting juxtaposition of old world sounds to new world philosophy (even if, such philosophy, dated back to the 1800s and before…)

Meanwhile, on top of that, the band buried high literacy concept and occultism into the tales of getting chased by cops and kissing. The set is locked with a multi-part suite inspired by March’s “The Wild Party,” drawing reference to celebration as a form of freedom. Peter Lorre once again appears as a tragic figure in a song after his own namesake. And that’s not to mention the band celebrating drunkenness and revelry, in fierce opposition to more stoic persons.

Yet, for all the good times through the record, the record concluded with a condemnation, albeit one shrouded in an energetic bounce and punk-charge. On “all the World is a Stage Dive,” Terricloth appears to call out former punkers who went straight: “And all the clowns in the house stared up at the stage/ they used to get so mad, they had such a good thing that day/ but at the last minute it just sort of went bad/ they lost their nerve/ they just went straight/ they didn’t have the balls to hold it down and they brought everybody else right down with them.”

Perhaps an understated aspect of World/Inferno, even through to this day, is their refusal to bend to norms or to “grow out” a life dedicated to fun, weirdness, and oppression of integrating into normality. They made different sounding records after Party, but that message lingers on, at their very core. As Terricloth responds to his condemnation before even making it on “Zen,” he says “How could anyone grow out of this."

Without question, Just the Best Party is one of the most unique records in punk, and music, that stands on its own merits, while also standing in fierce opposition to so many other things- those in both “normie” society and so-called “counter-culture.”

The 2019 reissue preserves the integrity of the release. The music has been remastered. So, now, it’s louder and has a bit more clarity. Perhaps the 2002 version could be accused of having a slightly muddy sounds- well, that’s been washed away, and thankfully, the mild-grime removal hasn’t uncovered any weak spots. The recording is as bouncy and as catchy as ever. The original blue cover has been replaced with a modified version of the superior art found on International Smashism (a curious German version of Party with only have the tracks). I had never really thought much about the old cover-either positively or negative- which I suppose means it was lacking. Well, the new version gussies up everything nicely without fiddling around too much. The release is as fresh as it ever was, simply because stuff like this is timeless.