"The Mighty Raritan"
March 15, 2011 - Chunksaah
When the World/Inferno Friendship Society arrived on the scene in 1996, did anyone anticipate that they'd still be alive and kicking some 14 years later? The band's sound—a mixture of cabaret pop, punk and jumped-up circus music—didn't seem like the most sustainable idea around. At the very least, you had to figure the Society would hit a creative wall that they wouldn't be able to work around.
They may be thumbing their noses at the naysayers with the release of their fifth album, but it's hard to ignore the fact that they've only taken their distinctive sound so far. On their latest, the ever-evolving lineup is able to dabble in a bit of swinging genre exercises, like dropping Mariachi horns and a slight calypso bent to "The Disarming Smile" and a bit of a country shuffle that creeps into "Lean Times For Heroes". Otherwise it's just more of the same, but cleaned up considerably from their rough-and-tumble early work, with some much stronger vocal work by leader Jack Terricloth.
You can't deny the sheer ability of the musicians in this version of the Society, either. In the right setting, they are the rollicking equals of a road-tight version of the E Street Band (check out the latter half of "The Politics Of Passing Out") and have a dramatic flair that would do a theatre/rock combo like the Residents proud. Still, this is one of those records for the longtime fans of the group and those few curiosity seekers who stumble upon one of their tracks on the radio or online. Outside of that, they aren't likely to win over any new converts with this album.