Young Fresh Fellows: Fabulous Sounds Of The Pacific Northwest (1984)
Even more so than its successor, this is retro-60s garage band music, raw and scrappy, but also poppy and good-humored and simply great light-hearted fun. Already fully-formed on the debut, co-founder Scott McCaughey was demonstrating the adept skill at a memorable hook and a delightful turn of phrase that he'd successfully milk for decades, both with the Fellows and his other band, The Minus Five (as well as several other projects).
The album has a few knocked-out-of-the-park, hopelessly infectious pop ditties, most notably "Think Better Of Me," "This Little Mystery," and of course the fantastic album-closing theme song. The lyrics are at times laugh-out-loud funny -- the ode to loser-at-the-party "A Humble Guy" is cringe-tastic ("he held himself pretty steady, she said 'I gave at the office already, but you're very polite'"); and "Big House" is packed with joy (36 years later, I still marvel at the tongue-twisting "the hunchback in the attic rings the bells and gets ecstatic").
Elsewhere the band is more in garage mode, the songs sounding like lost gems from an old Nuggets compilation (the surf-rocking opener "Rock 'n' Roll Pest Control"; the rousing "You Call That Lonely?"). But it's non-stop goofy entertainment throughout.
A few side-notes: First, the album is fashioned as a mock-visitor's-guide to scenic pre-grunge Seattle (as seen on the cover), with bits of non-sequitur 1950s-styled narration between songs. It gives the album a charming, offbeat feel, like the band is inviting you into their little corner of the world; but after a few listens you might be tempted to burn a copy of the album with those interludes omitted.
More problematically, the production is a bit of a disaster -- as in, there is no bass. None. Now, as a bit of treble-crazy jangly guitar pop it matters not a bit; it may even serve the casual, lo-fi tone of the enterprise. But it's hard not to listen and imagine how fantastic this would sound with a proper remix.
Anyway, it's as essential as Topsy Turvy, one of the true greats of the college radio 80s.
Here's that theme song: