The Young Fresh Fellows: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pest Control”
When you click on the above song widget and it starts off with the seagulls and narration, don’t worry: you’ve got the right song. What you’re hearing is a little tongue-in-cheek humor from one of the great pre-“grunge” Seattle bands, The Young Fresh Fellows. Prior to the Seattle music explosion of the early ’90s led by Nirvana, if you’d been exploring the mid-’80s Seattle music scene, you would have found The Young Fresh Fellows leading the pack. With their wacky sense of humor and eclectic music sensibility, they were a breath of fresh air in the New Wave-y ’80s.
Lead Fellow Scott McCaughey was the primary instigator in the Young Fresh Fellows’ humor, but they weren’t a novelty band, a la Weird Al Yankovic. They were essentially a garage band that liked to have a little fun, paving the way for bands like The Presidents of the United States of America (also from the Seattle area). They toured frequently with the Replacements, befriended R.E.M. (McCaughey later became the “fifth R.E.M. member” in the ’90s and beyond, acting as their second guitarist on several tours; he also formed The Minus Five, which frequently included R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and members of Wilco), and released what might be their best known song in 1987: “Amy Grant,” a very funny poke at the Christian music star (“She comes home from church/She takes off her pants/That’s what I like about Amy Grant”). In 1989, Kurt Bloch of The Fastbacks joined the band, lending a harder edge to their sound. They broke up in the mid-’90s, but have since reformed and released an album in 2009 produced by friend and honorary Seattle-ite, Robyn Hitchcock.
After yesterday’s “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun,” I thought that a definitively fun rock ‘n’ roll song would be an ideal followup. And “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pest Control,” from the Young Fresh Fellows’ 1984 debut album, The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest, certainly fits the bill — in fact a little rock ‘n’ roll pest control might just be the perfect antidote to those self-important, too-serious rock bands that Sleater-Kinney was referring to. The song zips along with gusto, like some great lost ’60s garage classic with bizarro lyrics:
Creatures are taking over my house They want my food and my skin and my time Little frogs are o.k. but the slugs on the rug And giant moths send me out of my mind
If you’re wondering about that introductory narration, that’s a running gag throughout the album; the narration is lifted directly from the same obscure travelogue sound effects album that the album’s title and cover design were directly lifted from (with just a few text additions and different photos). It’s a funny touch, not overdone, and served notice that The Young Fresh Fellows were out to make you smile and rock out in equal measure.