16.Jun.2010 120 On SAL: The Figgs
The other day I was on the hunt for a copy of the 1998 album Couldn’t Get High by the Saratoga Springs, New York power-pop band The Figgs. Having been a fan for some time, I decided to pick up the releases needed to complete their discography and Couldn’t Get High was one of them. After only finding it online for the price of a new CD (although it is an import so I guess it’s not that bad), I decided that I was going to go the cheap route and see if any of my friends had a copy that they could burn for me.
I sent messages to several of my friends across the country, friends that share my passion for independent music and that I respect for their knowledge and dedication as music collectors. Time after time, the responses that I got were “Who are they?”, “Never heard of ‘em”, and “Don’t know that band”, and time after time I was surprised. How could this be? The Figgs have been around for almost two decades now and are one of my favorite power-pop bands. After these responses, it came clear to me that I had to write about this seemingly hidden gem.
Under the original moniker Sonic Undertones, the band formed in 1987. They changed their name shortly thereafter at the request of a label-head that they were about to signing with, who stated that Sonic Undertones was unoriginal. The deal with that label fell through, but the name stuck and The Figgs pushed on.
After releasing two cassettes (remember those things?) in 1992 (Ginger) and 1993 (Ready Steady Stoned), the band was picked up by Imago Records, which had acts such as punk icon Henry Rollins, Pere Ubu and Love Spit Love on its roster over the years. That next year saw the band release their first and only album with Imago, Lo-Fi at Society High. Lo-Fi saw the band receive some attention from critics and college radio, even having the video for their song “Favorite Shirt” played on MTV’s 120 Minutes.
The attention that Lo-Fi garnered for the band caught the eyes of Capitol Records and the band was quickly signed for the release of the album’s follow-up. Banda Macho, which was released in 1996, continued The Figgs power-pop sound with a punk rock edge that drew in many fans of the band, including myself. It may not have been as good as Lo-Fi, but it is still an enjoyable record without any doubt. However, due to the major label spin cycle of attempting to cash in on the independent and punk movements and exceedingly highly sales expectations, The Figgs, like so many others in the mid-nineties, parted ways with Capitol Records after just one release, but again, The Figgs pushed on.
It was around this time that The Figgs, while also writing and recording their own original material, have served as the back-up band for legendary British rock singer Graham Parker. They even worked with him on his release Songs of No Consequence nine years later. The boys have also cut their teeth playing and touring with Tommy Stinson, bassist for The Replacements.
Since leaving Capitol, the band has released six studio full-lengths for various independent labels, including the ambitious double CD Palais and their latest effort The Man Who Fights Himself, which was released just last month. Among those releases are fan favorites “Couldn’t Get High” and “Sucking In Stereo”. As the years have passed, the band has given up that rougher punk edge to their power-pop in favor of a sound that is more mature and rock-based, but they continue to release great records that are catchy and well executed.
So I eventually decided that I would spend the money necessary to purchase Couldn’t Get High and expect it any day in the mail. I can’t wait to get my ears on it and will share my thoughts on it with you in the comments section below. I am so happy that The Figgs are pushing on.