Review: FIG MINTS (OF YOUR IMAGINATION) – “The Passionate Misunderstanding”


The Passionate Misunderstanding

If record reviews were personality contests then anything from Fig Mint HQ would be greeted like a long-lost Beatles album, recorded in a sunkissed LSD-obliterated Bermuda triangle of a fortnight in the summer of 1967. And on the Quixodelic underground “The Passionate Misunderstanding” should be afforded the same treatment… roll out the red carpet, download it for free, make a little space in your life, hang onto your headphones and disappear down a tunnel of time, way back to before it even started. But we all know it doesn’t work like that – the old cliche about good guys finishing last was seemingly written about songwriters like Robert Richard Rogan, the brains behind a name that began as a piss-take of himself, but stuck for the best part of a decade thereafter. The truth is, if there is a red carpet then it’s a ragged one – beer & vomit stained, threadbare in places, half-rolled up in a stinking backstreet of urban America. And yet, like a resplendant punk beatnik guitar-wielding troubadour, if you peer through the darkness of your own head, you can vaguely make out the silhouette of “Pinky” staggering bottle in hand on the carpet’s remains, perpetually flying beneath the radar. Perhaps more than anything, the reason I love Fig Mints records is the way it deals with the desolation and confusion of just being here through the songs, through the tangled guitar riffs, with bittersweet and comical words that you instantly recognise as the universal badge of intelligent bewilderment.

“The Passionate Misunderstanding” is something for the curiosity collector inside us all, documenting a time pre-Figs, when the music was nameless, and finding it’s feet while trying not to drop the bottle. 7 tracks ripped from almost-forgotten spools of tape recorded between 1999 and 2005, it is as raw and ragged as the carpet I’m imagining it walks down, but for anyone who has been lucky enough to catch any official Fig Mints records released in the last 5 years, it is well worth your attention. Make no mistake – if you want an introduction to Bobby Rogan’s particular brand of music, then head over to where you can download the brilliant “Bad Choice Brigade” or the equally impressive and most recent recording “Hugs & Smiles” for free. But if like me, you’re wondering how it all began, or simply just wanting some more Fig Mints on your iPod then “Misunderstanding” intentionally misses the spot and rolls off down the road behind you.

“The Passionate Misunderstanding” kicks off with the prototypical Fig Mints “War In Space”. There is an umistakeable sound that runs through the veins of any Figs records – like a compass of pop, punk, indie rock, and experimental folk with a needle that spasmodically wheels around the face, stopping for a moment here, before wheeling around to there. Reassuringly, you never know exactly what you’re going to get next, but at the same time you know that it’s going to be somewhere on that compass face. What I think I’m trying to say here is a Fig Mints record without a “War In Space” wouldn’t be a Fig Mints record. Think punk-pop. Or pop-punk. And smile at simply neat lines like “Of all the human race you’re the only one that I would like to save…” while you’re thinking. 

Next stop for the needle is the distinctly lo-fi “Front Porch-Cars Passing”, a dual acoustic recording that is exactly what is says it is – an experimental few minutes of instrumental guitar lines, switching between grungey chords and atmospheric folk licks all the while the Utican traffic rumbling by in lo-fi space. It sounds as chaotic and unplanned as a jazz trumpeter, and gets better and better with every passing second until it closes on a curious bar of seemingly accordian-esque notes. “Misunderstanding” is mathematically heavy on the non-vocal side with a whopping 43% of it being music only – but the other two instrumentals are perhaps two of the high points. “Light 100s” is my current favourite track of the 7, verging on atmospheric psychedelic rock it takes a riff and runs with it building in a crescendo of frenzied guitar squalls, whereas in stark contrast “Requiem For My Puppy Dog” is a breezy little electro/acoustic ditty hinting at the direction of jingle-jangle folk-pop that comprises some of Fig Mints finest later recordings. The instrumental side of this record is really no surprise if you join the dots and trace the development from musician/guitarist discovering and finding their way as a singer/songwriter, and frames a curious glimpse at such a transition. That perhaps the most endearing quality of more recent recordings (the lyrical connection of the words) is absent for much of “Misunderstanding” in the context of this record being such a snapshot, is forgiveable, and actually pretty damn enjoyable.

The record is made up with “What A Day” (the most recognisably Fig Mints track on the record – a chugging acoustic/electric drawl, with a catchy melody, Beck-esque in its delivery), “My Dreams Are Boring” (more of the same, an electric beat and a deadpan delivery that pulsates with digitalised “oohs” and “ahs” like tiny insects), and closing track “They’ll Be Here Soon (Full Moon)”. As a record closer it’s worth the admission price alone – oh shit, yeah it’s free – well, if there was an admission price then that track would be worth it. Here comes the sound of a recognisably Utica-style experimental madness – backwards guitars, tapes fizzing, voices screaming inexplicables (did I just hear someone yelling something about “dodgy ball”?). It is the soundtrack of mispent, beautiful hallucinogenic youth – too many drugs, too much drink, too much thought, much hilarity, alive and prickling with the electric NOWNESS of it, like listening to your own worst nightmare and waking up many years later to find out someone actually recorded it on the other side of the world.

So there you have it. “The Passionate Misunderstanding” is the sound of the artist stretching on the start-line before taking off on a neverending sprint to a finishing line nobody knows exists. If anything, it’s a timely and slightly eccentric reminder of why you can’t wait for the next chapter from a songwriter who is producing “one song a month” in a blacked-out bedroom somewhere, getting on with it, goofing with friends when he can, slowly digesting the absurd world he inhabits so that he can later regurgitate it in the shape of songs and observations, with great guitars and drums to keep it simple, and give it momentum. Beyond that it’s a neat and strange little record in its own right, with a compass needle that goes haywire pulling recordings that never found a place to be from spools of tape and pasting them together on the cutting floor of hindsight. The silhouette is singing to you, an upstairs window opens and someone hurls a slipper down into the street below with a shower of insults concerning time – but what does the silhouette care… the tune he is drunkly trying to whistle is timeless and the red carpet rolls out in the shadows beneath his feet. Long may the carpet keep rolling.

You can download “The Passionate Misunderstanding” from the Quixodelic STORE link at the top of this site FOR FREE

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1 Comment

  • On 08.26.08 tim said:

    great review! I copied your post over to CHR