GENRE | Bummer Rock
LABEL | Sleeper Records
RELEASE DATE | February 2, 2017
VERDICT | Motivational moping for self-loathers
If listeners didn’t know better, they would spit the ribald dark comedy of Fat History Month out the moment it’s spoon-fed to them. That is, in part, the point. The long-adored duo garnered a cult following in Boston for lo-fi songs that hurl themselves against the wall, turn to self-hatred for comfort, and question every motive to the point of making themselves sick, but they hide those troughs of psychology under sophomoric lyrics and pre-pubescent titles to push people away. It’s both a form of self-sabotage and a genuine defense mechanism. No one can tell you your music’s immature if you already know it is. So the two change their monikers, singer-guitarist Sean History Month and drummer Mark History Month becoming Jeff Meff and Bob Hobby respectively, dawning new names whenever they feel like it, more often than not when too much attention is attributed their way.
It comes as no surprise that Sean began recording material solo as Bad History Month to mess with the band’s timeline, and, following press from the likes of Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, went into hiding. A split with Dust From 1000 Years appeared in 2014, but things have otherwise been silent. Maybe that was the only choice. If you stay in your head for too long, the noise begins to echo too loudly.
Last month, Philadelphia label Sleeper Records put together 6 weeks of winter, a compilation celebrating 2017’s never-ending winter. They had the right idea given it’s technically spring but we’re still undergoing winter at the moment (tip of the snow cap to ya, how-is-it-snowing-when-it’s-not-below-freezing-today snowflakes). Hidden in the middle of the compilation is Bad History Month’s first new song in three years, “Self Help Sundae,” where Sean compares a petulant fit for sweets to ungratefulness in adulthood. “I scream for ice cream and when it comes I feel sick/With guilt and regret for throwing a fit/I bit the tit of the world but still got fed,” he sings. “Fed up with myself/I scream for a new attitude/I’m hateful.”
The whole track is about as signature Bad History Month as it gets: deadpan vocals that sigh despondently, a time signature change mid-song, stylistic warps distorting the guitar. It’s an awareness of self that rattles and repeats itself, clawing at his skin, but when he finally gives way to gratitude, it feels like a sickening swirl. He changes his mind. He reminds himself of his luck. He accepts the free things he given despite selfish tendencies, prompting a deeper look at his morals and the endurance of greed at large. Yet that very act of acknowledging privilege fills him with even more regret and guilt, ruining the desire to desire at all, so he encourages others to claim the rampant ingratitude around them—”There’s more than enough for me/Go ahead help yourself, it’s free”—with a tone that sees him retreating once again from the microphone. What’s the point of wanting when the entire act is selfish regardless of what’s being sought?
Stream the song below for free, though we suggest you head to Bandcamp and buy the compilation in full for $5 (or drop $7 for a sleek cassette). With Free Cake For Every Creature, Tall Friend, Naps, Cleo Tucker, Brittle Brian, and more bookending it, the release is well worth your spare change, though the release of any new Bad History Month material is worth it alone.