If LA’s nightlife is the sluttiest in the country and New York’s is the snottiest, San Francisco’s is the ghost in the machine, all spooks and nightcrawlers. Being in the Mission or the Tenderloin at 1:30 on a Saturday night with several drunken notches on your belt can feel like being lost on some kind of moor. Most of that’s due to climate and geography but there’s a mood of disquiet that hangs itself around you here, mid-clubbing, and it ain’t about the weather or the blonde phoenix who just reduced you to ashes. San Francisco’s full of vampires, and a lot of them siphon from a distance.
Meet Patric Fallon, vampire hunter. On Club Hits To Hit The Clubs With, the charmingly misanthropic debut from the sick-hop outfit All Teeth & Knuckles, Fallon excoriates the poseurs and pansies of the City in a series of wisecracking, profanity-riddled kissoffs that edge themselves into a smarmy dither of disco before fading into blasts of spittle-spray. Fallon, who takes the stage name Sick Face, the better to be belligerent with (I guess), swings and sneers like Mike Skinner if Mike Skinner were Captain Bligh’s nephew or some shit. (Giovanni de la Cruz, ATAK’s other member, is content to call himself ‘Gio Fo Rio,’ which in its own way is every bit as ballsy as ‘Sick Face’.) If at this point you’ve decided you hate this band, unheard, you should note that this is my review, and I’m the Decider.
Conceptually Club Hits is pretty straightforward—in the immortal words of Andrew WK, “party hard party hard party hard party party hard.” More than that it’s about being in San Francisco, all the wack and the wipeout there, but like similar geocentric pieces like Sound Of Silver or even Original Pirate Material, it doesn’t resonate any less if you’re not a native. Sonically there’s everything from New Order-style synth fanfare, circa-Brotherhood, to the grit of indie smut peddlers like Spank Rock to the silly, sinewy spangles of Mount Sims (although I doubt Fallon has ever hit on, say, a professional stuntman). The snare effects are lurid and all over the place, dropping like eggs into boiling water or, in the case of “Manage It,” like a hubcap off a speeding roof. Made largely on secondhand equipment, the tracks operate at a kind of low angle, taking shots from the floor up.
In “The Real San Francisco,” Fallon spies a debutante and takes her on a whirlwind tour of the City’s iconic neighborhoods: he raps languidly “let’s roll to the TL/ despite all the junkies/ that neighborhood’s as cool as hell” and later “to SOMA/ find a secret warehouse party/ with a secret entrance/ I’ll show ya.” Chances are ATAK has played a few of these. And crashed a few.
“Fuck Your Jacket” finds Fallon in full scream, miffed at bridge-and-tunnellers and other slickos who roll into his favorite bar. In a brisk little set-to of a skit he and Gio stage a phone call during which they discuss their mutual hatred of leather jackets. Over a brass-knuckle beat and tripped-out keys Fallon then offers the following, double-tracked: “fuck your hair/ fuck your jeans/ fuck your jacket/ fuck all that racket.”
All Teeth & Knuckles could have blown it—all that vitriol and no place to put it is a common problem with acts this juiced. But it’s hard not to like Sick Face. Unlike Skinner, beneath the bluster Fallon is more or less a romantic. He’ll also do anything, pretty much, to get laid, to whatever extent that’s romantic. On “Manage It” (which among other things spells out the easiest way to party on a budget, which is basically get next to the DJ) he takes a girl aside and assures her he’s not too drunk for a little play “cause tonight’s my Friday.” The single “Let’s Undress And Listen To CSS” isn’t just a nip off CSS’s “Lets Make Love And Listen To Death From Above” it’s basically a (self-deprecating) valentine to Lovefoxxx, who, as the lyric has it, knocks Sick Face out of his (wait for it) soxxx. On the shimmering “Look So Good,” meanwhile, Fallon affords himself the only outright sigh on the album, musing “what should I do with all of you/ trying to look so good?” It might be the best moment on Club Hits. If you squint you can see him loosening his tie, ordering one for the road. Pretty pieces of flesh may never get old, but they do get exhausting.
Fallon knows he’s a contradiction. There’s some self-loathing in all the self-awareness—to some extent that’s the conceit of Club Hits, the push-and-pull of standing out versus fitting in. Songs like “Fuck Your Jacket” may tear the yuppies a new one but others like “The Real San Francisco” are filled with the guilty pleasure of being tragically hip. Fallon’s hoodie and windbreaker may “both be black” (from “Fuck Your Jacket”) but they’ve probably got American Apparel tags on them. At any rate, if you’ve ever had a night where the dancefloor looks like a pit of beasts into which you’re about to be thrown, but you’re fairly confident your thrift-store button-down fits you to the bone, All Teeth & Knuckles has a set of pep talks for you. Manage it.
The Streets – Original Pirate Material
Spank Rock – YoYoYoYoYoYo
Mount Sims – UltraSex