Image provided by Fueled by Ramen
So here we are, at the end of all things (if you believe the Mayans or the evangelicals or the economists). It's 2012 - did we think we'd get here at all? In this post-Cold War, post-9/11, post-feminism, post-modernism world, we aren't sure of anything.
But we might as well have some Fun. while we're pondering our nihilism.
Pun intended, the band Fun. is the voice of our near-apocalyptic generation. Whether you think they're a bunch of preening phonies or the greatest band the '90s never saw is almost irrelevant because as much as you try to deny it, they're talking about you.
Yes, you, Ms. "I got a Master's in Thinkology, but I can't get a second shift at Fatburger." And you, sir, the 34-year-old Grizzly Adams who only dates 18-year-olds because women your age aren't impressed that you play the washboard in that faux-folk troupe at the Farmers Market.
We're stuck, thanks to the "economy" or "our parents' expectations" or "the Republicans" or "the Democrats" or (GASP!) our own volition. But that stickiness has a soundtrack in New York City's (could they BE from anywhere else? Of course not) Fun. So we're not alone in our drowning.
Take, for instance, the obvious first choice, the No. 1 hit "We Are Young." In its ubiquity, many are passing it off as a melodramatic trendy piece about seizing the day. But listen closer: In the line "So I set the world on fire, we could burn brighter than the sun" is less carpe diem and more in the vein of something another musical misanthrope once said: "It's better to burn than fade away." (Cobain, quoting, coincidentally, Neil YOUNG. See, it all comes full circle!)
Naysayers end their relationship with Fun. on that note, but they're missing the bigger scope of Nate Ruess' slacker sermons by doing so. Like so many albums with That One Big Hit, the deep tracks are even better than the single and are more indicative of the band's real message. Ruess is the king of "It is what it is." Yes, everyday life can being dire for a late-Millenial (the singer turned 30 on the eve of the release of this album, Some Nights), but we must, as one song insists, "Carry On."
Because the alternative is even worse.
It's no wonder Fun. culls so much influence from Queen. Remember that line in "Bohemian Rhapsody" (no, not "Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?" That's for another column on theater of the absurd): "I don't want to die, but sometimes I wish I'd never been born at all"? That's Some Nights in a nutshell. Toss in a little "Loser" by Beck, and you've got the recipe for this incredibly relevant album.
Its theatrics (bolstered by an opera singer in the intro, to a deliberate overabundance of Auto-Tune in the wonderfully rambling closer, "Stars") are a testament to the world "young" people live in. (See this spot-on Fun. parody about the dangerous use of the Y word). We all put on masks and costumes when we go out on the town or to our jobs (if we have them). But once the curtain comes down on the boisterous day, all we really want to do is call our moms on the phone. (Ruess professes his mama's boyishness numerous times on the record.)
Ruess also speaks to this generation's entitlement issues. He knows he's not immune, either, but when we all grew up being told we literally could be anything we wanted to be (a cross-dressing astronaut basketball player? Go for it! Although, Dennis Rodman kind of beat you to it), and then our dreams DON'T come to fruition, we tend to blame outside forces.
In "One Foot," a pulsing number that straddles rock and thorny, horny hip-hop, he points fingers left and right. "I'm standing in Brooklyn just waiting for something to happen," he grumbles. Boy, can most of us relate to that feeling. We live in cool big-city enclaves. Why aren't we happy? Why aren't good opportunities falling into our laps? Who's fault is it?
Ooh, maybe it's God's, Ruess suggests. "I happened to stumble upon a chapel last night, and I can't help but back up when I think of what happens inside. ... I thought we were all your children. But I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot. We will rise up ourselves. Thanks for nothing at all." If that's not the defiant stance of the Millennials, I don't know what is.
For all his (what seems like) cynicism, Ruess does muster up just enough gusto to continue. Aural hugs such as "All Alright" and "It Gets Better" are the anthems we need in this day and age as we stare over the precipice of what could be the end. Things could always be worse: The Baha Men could make a comeback.
Fun., in the multidimensionalism of their name, are so much more important than "We Are Young" insists. Their Some Nights has tapped into that hopeful/hopeless shuffle so many of us are feeling right now.