The Felice Brothers Celebration, Florida
The puritanical streak that runs through The Felice Brothers’ work like a preacher in a whorehouse zigzags thrillingly off-course on the deeply, profoundly weird Celebration, Florida. “The honeymoon is over,” bassist Josh “Christmas” Clapton slurs over a listless drum machine on “Back In The Dancehalls,” a menacing electro-folk dirge about violent teenagers and Richard Pryor that’s laced with psychedelic violin swirls and R&B synth fills. After rising to prominence with two excellent Americana albums steeped in mud-caked overalls, chicken coops, and accordion-accented waltzes about girls named Ruby Mae, The Felice Brothers have captured the decay and corruption of contemporary America in dazzling, sickening fashion. Coming from a band that might’ve otherwise been able to cash in on the current cornpone-ography boom created by Mumford & Sons, Celebration, Florida represents a forceful move in the opposite direction from indie-folk convention.
Named after a community founded and operated by Disney World not far from the Magic Kingdom, Celebration, Florida is similarly plastic and rootless, frequently shifting tempos and melodies within songs without rhyme or reason, signaling a familiar hunger for constant stimulation as a cure for spiritual emaciation. “Honda Civic” is blues with a disco rhythm and a noir storyline about a late-’90s robbery at a Wonder Bread warehouse downtown; “Ponzi” conflates Stanley Donen’s debonair ’60s thriller Charade with Wall Street con man Bernie Madoff. (No wonder there’s also a song called “Oliver Stone” on Celebration, Florida; the album shares the messianic director’s maniacally debauched aesthetic.) The piss-drunk cowboy song “Dallas” is one of the few callbacks to The Felice Brothers’ old habit of aping the boozy backwoods camaraderie of Dylan’s Basement Tapes period; otherwise, Celebration, Florida is the band’s full-on Tom Waits apocalypse record, finding signs of our imminent destruction in—what else?—our most banal diversions.