“For all the lies you ever smiled …”

Fags-01

I love The Fags. They’re a band, from Detroit, MI. They are John Liccardello (vocals/guitar), Tim Patalan (bass) and Jimmy Paluzzi (drums), and, they play insanely addictive, hard rockin’ power pop similar to Cheap Trick but filtered through gritty modern alternative rock. The Fags, I think, would be more well-known if not for their name, despite the fact that its taken from English slang for a cigarette.

The Fags‘ self-titled debut EP was released in 2002, and followed, in 2006, by their first full-length album Light ’em Up. The EP is raw, crunchy, and powerfully melodic. Three of the five songs (“Truly, Truly”, “Ms. Take” and “List”) were re-recorded, with a much cleaner sound, for the impressive full-length.

The track “Ms. Take” (renamed “Mistake” for the album) is nothing short of a rockin’ pop masterpiece. The song’s clever lyrics, filled with fiery emotion, are driven, in its energetic refrain, by huge power chords that hit you with the force of your face into a brick wall at 60 mph:

Cuz things just haven’t been the same since she’s been gone
I try to do what’s right but what’s left keeps eggin’ me on
It may end up on my face / But it’s a risk that I take (that I take)
I just feel like we’re making a big mistake

Did you get all that? Right, left, egg on face? Brilliant! “Truly, Truly” is another song that benefits from the EP’s raw power. This one’s kind of like an update of The Raspberries‘ classic “Go All the Way” in that its pretty melodies hide the fact that John’s trying to get laid:

Well, a drink would make things easier / I’m shaking in my skin
Cuz I’m 0 for 3, alone, you see / I’m looking for a win

In “List” (which is better on the album), John makes a lengthy list of all the girls he’s kissed, missed and pissed off, but, realizes, “You’re the only girl I wanna be with one more time.” In “Hitman”, John offers this great line about an ex who treated herself to a butt enhancement: “Another 10 pounds of envy shoved in a 5 pound sack!” But, in a much more tender moment on the EP, “Reserved” is a power-chorded, harmony-laden declaration of devotion to a dying loved one:

Tougher than the hardest question / Steeper than the highest grade
You have got a spot in Heaven / Save me a place

OK, the re-recorded tracks on Light ’em Up are just cleaner cuts, with the biggest difference heard in “Mistake”. So, the best new song, by far, is the Cheap Trick-ed out power pop hookiness of “Here’s Looking at You”, an ode to drinking away the memory of a bad relationship:

For every time I bit my tongue and choked it on my pride
For every night I held you, held back what I felt inside
For every lie you ever smiled
Here’s looking at you walk out that last time

I love the line, “For every lie you ever smiled!” But, then, in the bridge, he adds:

My vision blurs, my words get slurred
When I feel my worst, I know I’ll feel all right

Again, brilliant! The classic ’70s power popper “Rockstar” is like the best song Eric Carmen (of The Raspberries, who are from Cleveland, OH) never wrote. Just listen to that chorus, and, you’ll think it’s a lost Raspberries track but fueled by modern alt-rock power chords! In “Snap”, as in “Oh, snap!”, John sings:

Hell, I know I let you down
Don’t act so surprised (I don’t get the look in your eyes)

I have those lines recorded in my brain, and, I’ve played them back to the many people in my life I’ve disappointed! Other good tracks are “Back of the Line”, “Greatest Movie Ending”, and the Cars-like “Tonight”. Finally, the album closes with the title track which has yet another insanely addictive chorus, backed by pounding drums:

It’ll only take a match to start a forest fire
Light ’em baby (light ’em baby)

The Fags, if not for their name, could have set the world ablaze! Now, I started with Light ’em Up, which I played over and over, and, eventually, found my way to the EP. But, I have to admit, that I prefer the raw crunch of the EP over the pristine sound of the album. However, both are pretty amazing!

Listen to the cleaner Light ’em Up version of “Mistake” here:

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