We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It

  • We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It
  • Bostin' Steve Austin (UK Vindaloo/WEA) 1986 
  • We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It EP (UK Vindaloo) 1986 
  • Fuzzbox
  • We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It! (Vindaloo/Geffen) 1986 
  • Big Bang! (Geffen) 1989 
  • International Rescue EP (UK WEA) 1989 

These four young misses from Birmingham took over-the-top hairdos, colorful clothes and a devil-may-care amateurish attitude straight into the British Top 30 with their five-song debut EP. (All of the songs are one side of a 12-inch; the flip uses the vinyl only as a medium for scratched-in portraits of the group.) Proud of their lack of instrumental prowess (rightly so — it’s a main part of their appeal), WGAFAWGUI simultaneously exploits and satirizes the prurient tabloid mentality on great cuts like “X X Sex” and “She.” And isn’t “Aaarrrggghhh!!!” a totally inspired title? Musically, the songs are built around rudimentary drums and guitar (yes, they do use their fuzzbox), occasional bass and unbridled enthusiasm. A real breath of fresh air.

The quartet’s splendid name was truncated to just Fuzzbox for the retitled American release of Bostin’ Steve Austin, which actually has music on both sides. Along with two songs redone from the EP, the well-played record includes the world’s worst version of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and a bunch of new originals that waffle between Banglish girl-group harmony pop (“What’s the Point,” “Love Is the Slug,” “You Got Me”) and chanted dancebeats. In a far more professional setting, Jo’s distorto guitar drones along nicely at varying levels; arrangements also feature sax and keyboards. “Preconceptions,” which might have been a poppy X-Ray Spex number, ends the album on a bewildering note, instructing listeners to “pay less attention to the packaging and listen to the voice!”

After proving that they could adapt their bubblepunk to major-league record-making without sacrificing their inspired-amateur spirit, the quartet made an abrupt about-face on Big Bang!, which recasts Fuzzbox as a slick dance-pop vocal group, with the spotlight on budding sex symbol Vickie. Though the album’s smooth, heavily programmed sound (no musician credits, but the women apparently did little or no playing) seems a complete repudiation of Fuzzbox’s DIY roots, “Pink Sunshine,” “Fast Forward Futurama” and “International Rescue” (all co-written by Liam Sternberg) are big, brassy fun nonetheless, and demonstrate scads more personality and humor than most commercial girly-pop. Still, it’s sad to hear Fuzzbox go straight — though a remake of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice” demonstrates a few remaining quirks.

[David Sheridan / Ira Robbins / Scott Schinder]