By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Even though Tim Prudhomme, vocalist and guitarist for Fuck, has been a card-carrying member of the music industry for several years, he insists (in the most disingenuous manner possible) that he still does not understand how it works. "I watch the MTV and try to figure out what the hell's going on out there in middle America," he says in a hazy monotone that moves at the breakneck speed of a snail with a shell too big for its body. "Doing it makes me very anxious. And one of the reasons, probably, is because I don't really know who else is out there. I mean, who exactly is watching the MTV and buying all those Celine Dion and Toni Braxton albums? Not any of my friends. But someone must be."
Odds are good that there's not much of a crossover between the Dion/Braxton contingent and boosters of Fuck. However, the reasons for this state of affairs aren't as obvious as they might seem on the surface. The name of Prudhomme's combo, which also stars singer/guitarist Kyle Statham, bassist/pianist Ted Ellison and drummer/guitarist Geoff Soule, conjures up visions of tattooed speed-metal ruffians with pierced eyelids and body odor that would peel the linoleum off your mom's kitchen counters. But in actuality, the Fuckers are polite, well-spoken young folks with respectable backgrounds: Between gigs and tours, for example, Ellison works as a substitute teacher in the Oakland area. "He was teaching both elementary and junior high," Prudhomme notes, "but then some junior-high kids threatened to beat him up, so he's dropped down to just elementary. He's a big guy, 6-2, so he wasn't really afraid of being beaten up. I think it was just too much stress."
The music on Fuck's three first-rate discs--1996's Pretty...Slow and Baby Loves a Funny Bunny and this year's debut for Matador, Pardon My French--also defies expectations. Songs such as "Hide Face" (from Slow) and "To My Gurl" (from French) rock, for lack of a better term, but they do so in a scraggy, mid-period Velvet Underground sort of way. Most of the other cuts, meanwhile, progress quite deliberately; as Prudhomme concedes, Pretty...Slow is a fair description of the band's average pace. The numbers alternately lope, amble and drone, accented by Prudhomme's sometimes wispy, sometimes druggy vocals and a rich sonic palette typified by keyboards and all manner of stringed instruments, including the occasional violin courtesy of Statham. Just as important, they don't wear out their welcome. Of the sixteen efforts on French, a quarter of them ("Li'l Hilda," "La Jolla," "Raggy Rag" and the aforementioned "To My Gurl") clock in at less than two minutes; the longest, "Tether," manages to fall twelve seconds short of four.
"I'm a big fan of the word 'concise' and everything that it entails," Prudhomme explains. "You should say what you want to say and then get on to the next thing. A lot of bands think they're being concise at four minutes, but I think they're fooling themselves. More and more bands that I've gone to see or listen to over the past year or so suffer from that. It's one of their biggest faults--that they don't edit themselves. They get in there and start jamming, and they never seem to know when to stop. But we know how."
They also know how to market themselves, Prudhomme's satirical claims of naivete to the contrary. Pretty...Slow comes in a modified handkerchief box and features, in addition to a disc, a packet of SweeTarts, a mini-rattle of the sort that can be purchased at arcades for the price of one skee-ball ticket, and a small coloring book (blue crayon included) whose every page corresponds to a song title. As for Baby, its disc can be found inside an oversized matchbook along with a sticker that bears an appropriate Fuck graphic--a clumsy sketch of an index finger on one hand sliding into the rounded palm of another. The French cover is less elaborate but just as amusing: Its colorful sketches of barnyard and domesticated animals and anthropomorphic vehicles would look fine on the jacket of a children's CD were it not for the fact that the figures are cavorting around giant pink letters that spell out the act's name.
The bandmembers settled on the moniker in 1994, shortly after deciding to combine forces in what was then their hometown, San Francisco. (Today Statham remains in San Francisco, but Ellison and Soule reside in the eastern part of the Bay Area, and Prudhomme is headquartered in New York City.) The players enjoy getting as much mileage out of it as possible: Witness Fuck's press kit, which cheekily provides an answer to the unavoidable queries it prompts. ("Interviewer: 'I must ask you why you chose your band name.' Fuck: 'We thought it would make for a good interview question.'") Prudhomme acknowledges that by going with such a handle, he and his cohorts were essentially soliciting the reactions they've gotten--and he swears that he has not yet grown sick of them.
"So far, it's been fine and dandy. It has served us very well, because it really works for us. It does everything we like. For one thing, it contrasts nicely with our music--and we like to have as much contrast as possible between one song and the next, or whatever. For another, it's memorable as all get-out. And then there's the controversial aspect of it, which is always good for business."