Why settle for new generation ‘90s rehashers when you can sip straight from the source? Strapping Fieldhands, an earnest Philly group that threw together playfully slapdash guitar pop with an affected British accent in the first half of that decade, are back after a seven-year recording gap with a new 7” on Richie Records/TestosterTunes.
After such a wait, there’s clearly no time to waste- Strapping Fieldhands eagerly jump right into a drunken head bobber. The quick doo-wop progression of the verse highlight Bob Malloy’s winking lines of feigned melodrama: he reminds us that when “Sitting on a furry couch / It’s not a proper time to pout.” Verse and chorus hurriedly run together without transition as if delivered in one musical breath. Distortion and a dented trumpet enter for a solo break and begin to wrench control from the vocal, diverting our attention and stumbling around out of key. Spoken “oos” and “ahs” hip-cock as the caravan careens off into cymbal crashes and nonsense, and the song seemingly ends without cue.
But “Impossible to Say” isn’t entirely tongue-in-cheek. The everyday malaise the speaker can’t seem to articulate is musically symbolized and dramatized: the ramshackle instruments sap the parapets of pop structure until it all falls apart and we’re left with musical debris. The exuberance of these seemingly destructive sounds thus raises another level of irony. The song is joyfully self-destructive, like a good drinking buddy.