‘Flip the Rat’- Review

Last week, we reviewed ‘Fearless Fred Fury’, the fourth Joker’s Card of the Second Deck by the Insane Clown Posse. This week, we are exploring its companion EP, ‘Flip the Rat’.

Flip feeds off the fear instilled by Red Fred, and opens with a series of songs describing Fred’s character, and the destructive power of violent fury. These were perhaps attempts at album openers, eventually replaced by ‘Red Fred’ and ‘Fury’ as the Joker’s Card’s introductory songs.

They feature varied and interesting rap-styles, and one of the biggest disappointments of either album is that ‘Revenge’ was not a 6-minute song.

The middle section of the album features many of the ICP standards one might expect on a Joker’s Card—sex songs, shit-talking songs, and guest features.

‘Friend Request’ depicts terrible people reaching out for connection, putting a comical spin on the darker aspects of our world before calling these into a clearer focus and calling them out directly.

The fact that these standards appear on Flip is an obvious result of the more focussed nature of Fearless Fred Fury in both sound and tone.

-Click Here to Purchase the Album-

Moving into the final third of this impressively lengthy EP, ICP deliver some long and very interesting songs, exploring new territory and key connections to the main album alike.

‘Hawking’ in particular is an fascinating piece. Covering every imaginable conspiracy theory about controlling groups and lack of hope—this song takes the idea behind FFF’s ‘Satellite’ and Flips it on its head. The songs compliment each other well, showing us that when looking at the big picture, the lens makes all the difference. While ‘Satellite’ looks at the wonder of being alive and gives a sense of unlimited potential, ‘Hawking’ looks at the paralyzing fear of feeling out of control and victimized.

‘Tha Dogg’ is a gritty rocker of a song, telling the story of an abused child growing up to seek violent revenge on his parents, and anyone else in his way.

Either of these two songs may have found a place on the main album—perfectly capturing the precipitous balance between taking actions to change your life, and losing yourself to violence and self-loathing.

The EP closes with ‘Be Safe’, a love song to Juggalos and to each other. It’s an anthemic ode to friendship, love, and togetherness, stressing the importance of key connections in life, and driving home the wisdom of eschewing the dangers and violence depicted throughout the preceding albums.

In a particularly moving moment, J gives a shout out to Cannibal, a Juggalo who died in 2015 defending a mother and her infant child from a violent mugger.

It’s a testament to the beauty of life, and all the things that can keep us from the self-loathing and desperation the rest of the albums take aim at. It’s a fitting ending to the series, and show the importance both of Flip the Rat as a balancing companion to Fearless Fred Fury, as well as the import of the decision to close FFF with ‘I Like it Rough’ rather than ‘Be Safe’.

Taken as a whole, ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ and ‘Flip the Rat’ cover a lot of ground, and work in tandem to present a compelling perspective on self-efficacy and empowerment, contrasted with the desperate, violent, and loathsome results of a failure to appreciate them.

It’s a powerful Joker’s Card and EP combo, and heralds a thrilling era that brings back much of the anger and hard-hitting tracks that some Juggalos have felt were lacking on previous albums. It goes all-in, and gets pretty dark at times, but as is the case with most Joker’s Cards, it has a crucial thread of positivity and appreciation sewn throughout for those who care to search.

665!

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Edgar’s Worst Sunday signing at Chapters Strathcona

Today, we’re happy to announce the next signing event for Edgar’s Worst Sunday. Join me on Saturday, Mar. 30th, at Chapters Strathcona (10504 82nd Avenue) for the instore signing of Edgar’s Worst Sunday!

Come by anytime between12:00pm-4:00pm to grab your copy, get it signed, and chat with the author.

You can get more info, and save the date on the Facebook Event here.

See you there!

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Fearless Fred Fury’- Review

When I was just a young Juggalo, there was one expression beyond all others I truly could not stand. “Life’s not fair,” would be my father’s familiar refrain whenever I fell into complaining about some perceived slight or rejection. When I grew older however, I understood the wisdom behind it. There’s no use complaining about things beyond our control—better to focus on the things you could change.

Sometimes life was unfair—would that make you bitter and hateful, or would adversity help you grow stronger?

The same questions are the driving force behind ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ (FFF), the new album from the Insane Clown Posse, and the Fourth Joker’s Card of the Second Deck. FFF is a being of toxic anger, punishing souls who fail to live with dignity—those who put off all responsibility for their life, and feed on blame and resentment.

Fred’s job is to avenge the bitter dead—doling out punishment to the recently deceased who have wasted their lives with impotent complaining to the chagrin of the dead who had no more opportunities to waste. The message behind this Joker’s Card is ‘Fite Back’—but how to do that is a concept explored throughout the card and its companion EP, ‘Flip the Rat’—which we’ll review next week.

Fred’s targets are those who blame fate, whine about poor luck and unfair circumstances, and take no control over their own lives. The dead are angry, and Fred is ready to punish such people. Flip meanwhile, feeds off the fear instilled by Fred. Together, they encourage the living to fight back against whatever is holding them back and find their true power and passion.

Anger is a funny thing however, and with the Wicked Clowns established approach of showing the good by shining a light on the bad, we are left with a strange dichotomy between wasting your life in sorry resentment, and the equally dangerous path of falling into toxic anger and destructive rage.

-Click Here to Purchase the Album-

This balance is defined clearly in the intro song for the character, ‘Red Fred’, which describes Fred’s anger towards those who never took control of their own lives, and the destructive power of fury.

… YES! Fred’s the revenge you never got…
NO! Fred’s all your dignity shot…
YES! Fred’s all the drive you didn’t know…
NO! Fred will burn these into your soul…

The album has an unusually personal aspect to it, as its long production time was marred by delays, and fuelled by the toxic anger of Violent J as he dealt with the loss of album mates and betrayals he struggled to process. There is a sense that the album started off as a pure revenge piece—focussed on violence and hatred, but morphed into something more nuanced and deep as J himself slowly processed his anger and put it in its proper place.

While songs like ‘Fury’ and ‘West Vernor Ave.’ tell stories of violent revenge and fury turned into violence, others stand on somewhat higher ground. ‘Satellite’, for instance, starts off with the quote,

“Your life sucks, is that what you said man?

Try and tell that to a dead man.”

The song is an important reminder of the better things in life, and the beauty of simply being alive. It encourages us to putt off bitterness and revenge, trading those for an appreciation of life and a determination to make the most of our opportunities.

The song creates a fascinating contrast with a song from Flip the Rat, ‘Hawking’, but we’ll talk more about that in next week’s review.

This sentiment repeats in songs like ‘Freedom’, which reminds us that we are free to live any way we want—that the world is truly ours.

These are exceptions however, and the majority of FFF is spent on toxicity and the impacts thereof. ‘Game Over’, ‘Low’, and ‘Hot Head’ tell the stories of people lost to the world due to their own resentment and fear, while ‘Nobody’s Fault’ drives this theme home by describing the horrendous impacts of such withdrawal from society, while reminding us of the source of this suffering: ‘it’s nobody’s fault but mine’.

‘Night of Red Rum’ provides a murder-fuelled horror story that may settle among some of ICP’s best of that particular topic, while ‘Shimmer’ is a ghost-story that may claim the same.

The penultimate song on the album, ‘Beware’ is a warning—a disclaimer of sorts about the disturbing content of the final song. It challenges the listener to make a choice whether to proceed or not. It’s a bit of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ approach, and sets up a fascinating ending to the album.

Not unlike the choice between the 6th Joker’s Cards of the first deck, ‘The Wraith’, which encouraged us to choose between ‘Shangri-la’, which was for the special few, and ‘Hell’s Pit’, which was for the many.

FFF closes with ‘I Like it Rough’, a depraved exploration of sexual violence and control—the noxious ending of a life defined by bitterness, rage, and resentment for society coupled with a lack of personal agency and responsibility.

It’s a dismal ending, focussed on mutual pain and suffering, with no hope at all offered within. This is an interesting and novel approach by ICP—as the vast majority of their albums end on a positive note encouraging us to appreciate what we have, love those deserving, and move beyond that which hurts us.

Nothing of the sort here—suffering and pain are the only offerings of the closing track, which is a fitting cap on an album driven primarily by themes of toxic anger and isolation. The right choice—perhaps, would be to obey the warning, and stop the album at ‘Freedom’—a more classically fitting end-point.

Of course, then we’d miss out on this powerful statement on toxicity—which the album did so much to establish.

Ultimately, the album makes it clear that life truly isn’t fair. There are moments when we’ll feel betrayed, forgotten, or unappreciated, and most likely, they’ll happen again and again.

It also tells us that it is only ourselves who can dictate our reactions to these setbacks—and reminds the listener to avoid falling into isolation and resentment, all while displaying the dangers of toxic anger and violence.

It’s a more layered theme than many of their efforts, and pays off with a strong sense of style and consistency. Ultimately, ‘Fearless Fred Fury’ is a terrific addition to the Dark Carnival saga, and Juggalos around the world are slathering over this new era of energy, empowerment, and a return to the classic ‘wicked shit’ of old.

Fite Back!

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Yesterday’s Book Signing

I had a fantastic time at yesterday’s signing event for Edgar’s Worst Sunday! Thanks to everyone that made it out!

-Brad OH Inc. and the Awesome Aurora!-

If you weren’t able to make it, have no fear. I’ll be back in action selling and signing copies on Saturday, March 30th, at Chapters Strathcona (10504 82nd Avenue). Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information and a Facebook Event.

I hope to see you all there!

-Brad OH Inc.

Edgar’s Worst Sunday Signing at Chapters Westside

Join me on Saturday, Feb. 23rd, at Chapters Westside (9952 170 St NW) for the first official instore signing of Edgar’s Worst Sunday!

Come by anytime between11:00am-4:00pm to grab your copy, get it signed, and chat with the author.

-Click Here to Purchase-

You can get more info, and save the date on the Facebook Event here.

See you there!

-Brad OH Inc.

Feb. 23rd Bookstore Signing Event for ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’

Have you picked up your copy of Edgar’s Worst Sunday yet? If you have, please be sure to leave your review on Amazon.com.

-Click Here to Order-

If you still need a copy, come grab one at Chapters Westside, at 9952 170 St NW, Edmonton, AB. I’ll be there selling and signing copies of Edgar’s Worst Sunday on Saturday, Feb. 23rd, so come by, get your copy, and meet the author (me!).

Times and further details will follow as available, but mark your calendar for Saturday, Feb. 23rd—the debut in-store book signing for Edgar’s Worst Sunday.

See you there,

-Brad OH Inc.

Lutra Lutra- ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ Review

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

This Saturday, Dec. 15th, Lutra Lutra will release their new album, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ at the Polar Park Brewing Co. You can get your tickets to the event here.

‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is the group’s first full length LP, and follows their 2016 debut EP, the self-titled ‘Lutra Lutra’. I reviewed the EP here, and have kept it in rotation long after the duties of the reviewer were passed. The funky grooves and witty lyricism have kept me coming back time and again, so when guitarist and lead vocalist Garreth Burrows offered me the chance to review the new LP, I was happy to oblige.

Lutra Lutra are an Edmonton, AB, based band that have been making a respectable mark on the local scene. For more about their live shows, see my review here. Garreth’s sister Katrina Burrows acts as the groups keyboardist and backup vocalist, with Denis Frigon on the drums, and Will Smith playing the bass.

Being an ardent fan of the EP, I must admit some apprehension when Garreth explained that this album was going to be a bit different. While the band’s lineup is unchanged since the EP, Lutra Lutra opted this time to work with a professional producer with a lot of unique input into the sound. This, he explained, meant less of a free-wheeling jazzy sound, and more hard-hitting rock.

With that in my mind, I sat down to discover just what sort of beast Lutra Lutra had grown into on ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’.

1. Psychopath and the Philosopher-

The album opens with its title track, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’. From the get-go, it’s clear Garreth meant what he said. The titular track brings a powerful, enduring engine of sound. The lyrics match the more in-your-face tone—conjuring images of domestic battery and psychological abuse which Garreth explains are inspired by his cats.

The sound is harder, faster, and a great deal more layered. It’s a clear evolution from the group’s debut EP, yet, Lutra Lutra still maintain their jam-band vibe, trailing off into long, groovy bridges before slamming back into their hard-rocking refrains.

This newfound intensity is further reinforced with the follow-up track, ‘Devils Give’.

2. Devils Give-

This track gives merit to the ‘Philosopher’ in the album’s title. ‘Devils Give’ opens up with a softer tone, slowly building intensity towards a chorus which laments feeling lost amid the moral confusion of modern living.

This track reminds us of Lutra Lutra’s well established ability to mix catchy riffs with potent ponderings, as it waxes about the constraints of conventional ethical weathervanes and the relative freedom of less constrained living.

‘I know we’re all deranged, when devils give and angels take, though we’ll pay for our mistakes…’. This song brings a more contemporary focus than past songs have, and we’ll see more of that to come.

3. Two States-

‘Two States’ was written by drummer Denis Frigon during his time in the middle-east, and opens with a quick riff of guitar and drums before Garreth opens into lyrics of wanderlust and yearning for more. The chorus reflects on the turmoil of seeing both sides of difficult situations.

‘Two States’ moves fast, and its energetic rhythm keeps the song moving with the intensity of its subject matter. ‘Falling to pieces all the time,’ the chorus ends, and on it’s final refrain Garreth’s visceral scream is a chilling exclamation point on the song’s compelling journey.

4. Lost the War-

If ‘Two States’ opened subtly, this one explodes. Straight into the title line with a kick of the drums and a heavy bassline, it stampedes out of the gate with a catchy groove. The song’s immediate catchiness is amplified by the regular harmonizing of organist Katrina Burrows.

The previous tone of sorrow and futility carries over into this song—an interesting contrast to the recurring themes of light and better times on the group’s EP. ‘I can’t seem to believe, everything I read, And it’s hurting my head, it hurts my head, I should have stayed in bed. We’ve lost the war,’ is the familiar refrain of this song, but if the implications are sombre, this dirge maintains the charge of its rhythm section and playful guitar work to ensure this tale of loss is moving in both senses of the word.

5. The Apology-

Building slowly in volume and intensity, ‘The Apology’ is a break down confession of a desperate voice, realizing how little regret is worth, while feeling all the greater the weight of their past.

The song moves with a steadfast intensity, bringing its sorrowful condemnation unceasingly. This is punctuated wonderfully by a playful moment when the music slows and Katrina Burrows softly sings, ‘It’s not the real me,’ capturing beautifully the themes of self-loathing and fear of responsibility echoing through the song.

6. Loving You-

‘Loving You’ was the lead single for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, and its infectious groove and snappy lyrics show why. In a—perhaps unintentional—referential call-back to their EP, Garreth sings ‘Trying to be a king, while you’re pulling the joker around by a string.’

The song continues the tones of condemnation and loss, but its joyful chorus brings a devil be damned sense of wonder and defiance—movingly reimagining the sense of hopelessness into a celebration, and reminding us that there are some joys that outweigh any circumstances. ‘Loving You’ is a rebellion against consequence, and a ballad to the moment; which I think the finer ones may even deserve.

7. Glass Eye-

There’s been a turning point here, and this song comes in with the voice of a self-doubting teacher, striving to impart the wisdoms which perhaps had not been realized in their own life. There is a sense of nihilistic swagger as Garreth brings a growling fury to the words. The drums rage beautifully in the background throughout.

8. Tell Me I’m Alive-

‘Tell Me I’m Alive’ kicks off quick and focussed, the bass working deftly to keep the song moving. ‘Every time I lose my mind, and faith, in the human race,’ reflects Garreth. A jazzy bridge lets the well-honed musicianship of the band shine before pounding back into Garreth’s impassioned plea to feel…anything perhaps. Then the song cuts off suddenly into the playful opening tones of ‘Zombie’.

9. Zombie-

‘Zombie’ goes from gentle notes to hard-driving chaos in just under a minute, before slowing down to spotlight the powerful diatribe of Garreth’s raging lyrics.

This song has a churning rhythm that can really grab hold of you. If that was the Zombie connection, I’m all the more impressed.

‘Cause I’m a devil when I lie, and I’ll see demons when I die,’ is the obstinate admission of the chorus, a dark reflection for the penultimate track.

10. Eye in the Sky-

The closing track, ‘Eye in the Sky’, is a notable departure in style, shifting from Lutra Lutra’s well-established mix of hard rock meets jam-band groove to a prog-rock inspired track to take the album out on a wildly unexpected yet uproariously fun send off. ‘Eye in the Sky’ lashes out at the lack of control we have in our lives, and its Orwellian undertones resonate strongly with the sympathies of this writer.

‘Eye in the Sky’ is a testament to the versatility of the entire band, with the high-energy tune meshing perfectly with Garreth’s unabashed delivery of the titular refrain.

There’s less cynicism in this song, less hopelessness even. Its simply a recognition of a bleak reality, and an unapologetic ode to the fun we can have in spite of all that. In spite of the ideas driving it, ‘Eye in the Sky’ closes the album with a sense of celebration, reminding us that as deplorable as the world may be, there is still love, and dancing, and good drinks, and great music.

‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is a louder, more relentless album than Lutra Lutra’s eponymous EP.  It’s darker, and more polished. It hits harder, moves faster, and lasts longer. If it trades in the EP’s sense of hope, it fosters in its place a more resigned sense of celebration.

The most critical evaluation, of course, is that this album is fun from start to finish. Even more—it’s is a blast live, as I described in my live show review last week.

That’s why you don’t want to miss the release party for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, this Saturday at the Polar Park Brewing Co.

Come see a great show, hang with good people, and pick up this fantastic album for yourself. Get your tickets here.

-Brad OH Inc.