Fergus & Geronimo started as the project of two guys in Denton — Andrew Savage (Teenage Cool Kids) and Jason Kelly (Wax Museums). They released some amazing singles: “Harder Than It’s Ever Been”, “Powerful Lovin’”, and “Tell It In My Ear” promised a ‘60s soul vibe, while “Girls With English Accents” had flourishes of sitar psych. The duality in their music is easy to pinpoint; they’ve said before that they write their music separately, not together, and then collaborate on each song in the studio. And on Unlearn, their debut album, that becomes even more clear.
Sonically, this record is all over the place. “Girls With English Accents” is a great opener. There’s the sitar, a pretty great guitar solo, and there are shakers and tambourines. Two songs later, there’s the soulful ballad “Powerful Lovin’”, and in between, you have the hilarious “Wanna Know What I Would Do?”. (“I’d promise lots of pussy to somebody who cared/Then drop some names of bands to impress chicks I met downstairs.”) So, that’s a goofy adoration of girls with English accents to a Zappa-esque song about hip music culture to a soulful number. In just the first three songs, the band manages to make three fairly big jumps. After that, there are plenty of large leaps in store.
The individual songs on this album are amazing as singles. Most of them are genuinely funny, like “Baby Boomer”, “Where the Walls are Made of Grass”, and “Wanna Know What I Would Do?”. Tracks like “Michael Kelly” have hypnotic guitar hooks. “Baby Don’t You Cry” is an excellent power pop stomper. And each single does have the stamp of being a song by an individual.
But, as an album, Unlearn can be a bit of a headache. Right as the album eases you into one style, it takes a hard left into different territory. That’s the foundation of the band, though. Instead of having one cohesive style, this is an album of two guys working through different influences and styles. It plays more like a mix CD of 11 cool bands or a compilation covering 30 years of one band’s career.
Unlearn is an album full of great, clever songs if listened to individually. As a whole, however, it’s too scattered. Take your time with this album, and listen to it on a single-to-single basis. It just sounds better that way.