Fight Like Apes Make Us Laugh, Think
There are various comparisons you can make in the case of Fight Like Apes—their Wikipedia page throws in Devo, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a bunch of ones that baffle me—but on appearances alone, you might mention Fall Out Boy, at least insofar as wordy, knowing, jokey titles are anything to go by. (There’s a song on their debut called “I’m Beginning To Think You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 To Me” and a previous EP was called David Carradine Is A Bounty Hunter Whos Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch.) This might just be a British Isles thing, since Los Campesinos! (“Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” is my personal fav) and McLusky are also prone to this tendency. But the question in both cases would seem to be: where’s the emotional connection with this sort of jokeiness? In both McLusky’s and Fight Like Apes’ cases, the answer would seem to be in anger. The humor is used in an aggressive way, with the song above serving as an elaborate and hilariously specific takedown of a guy named Jake Summers. But that doesn’t make it angry, like hardcore, necessarily, which would certainly be one-dimensional. The anger seems to be at real situations, which implicates the speaker, too; we suspect that maybe Jake Summers might not be so bad, while the wronged tone of “Digifucker” never gets the creepy self-righteousness of, say, “You Oughta Know.”
But what about Fall Out Boy? It seems awfully odd to call them emo anymore, given how strategic and controlled their lyrics seem to be these days. The humanity comes from the anger being self-directed, which is certainly emo enough, but increasingly their power stems from the way that anger is directed outwards. It’s become like a punk variation on David Foster Wallace’s technique of squarely admitting all the problems with the utterance making whatever comes after seem both more sympathetic and more credible. What’s ultimate impressive about FOB’s jujitsu is its maturity; Fight Like Apes’ use of humor, invigorating as it is, ultimately requires them to be innocently charming and to come from a position of weakness. As much sense as it made for McLusky to break up, ultimately, it would’ve been interesting to see where they would’ve taken it. This gives us another chance, maybe.