Young Fresh Fellows: Topsy Turvy (1985)

Heading back to my college radio DJ days, when I used to play the living crap out of this.   Seattle's Young Fresh Fellows offered up a surprising mash-up of jangle pop, garage band rock, folk and psychedelia, bound together with a profound sense of fun and humor.  Yet while it's the joyousness and good cheer that made the album such a stand-out at the time, it worked because the songs were just so damn full of great hooks.

The album packs in loads of variety, from the almost Dylanesque folky pop of lead-off track "Searchin' USA" and particularly "Hang Out Right," a wonderful ode to/poke at collegiate apathy ("She spoke to me of my ill-developed apathy, which had so long kept me from the light.  It seemed that I was inflicted great discomfort by ineptness hanging out right") to more upbeat garage rockers (the cathartic "How Much About Last Night Do You Remember" and "Two Lives," plus a dynamite cover of their hometown band the Sonics' "You've Got Your Head On Backwards").  And I'm particularly partial to the catchy, tuneful little duties like "Mr. Salamander's Review" and the psychedelic "The Sharing Patrol," with its ecstatic whistle-along coda.

The band has continued to release great records (1987's follow-up The Men Who Loved Music was nearly as essential), while frontman Scott McCaughey is frighteningly prolific and omnipresent, fronting an entirely separate (and equally great) band The Minus 5 while also playing guitar on multiple R.E.M. tours and serving in various other bands, including Filthy Friends (a supergroup fronted by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, which recently released the truly splendid Emerald Valley).  (Damn, that was a mouthful.)

Here's a contemporaneous live take on "How Much About Last Night...":

And a more recent shot at "Hang Out Right":


The CD version, which you should go and buy on Amazon, pairs Topsy Turvy with their debut album, the Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest.  That one is at least every bit as much fun, with perky, pithy bits of garage pop, some truly outstanding songs, marred only by the apparent failure of the producer to include any bass guitar in the mix.