Organized and fronted by Randy Tessier, the bassist of George Bedard and the Kingpins, FUBAR ranges idiosyncratically across the pop landscape of the last half century, from the Everly Brothers to Etta James to the Kinks to Jackie Wilson to U2. When FUBAR covers songs from well-known groups such as the Byrds, it's likely to be something obscure like "You and Me" rather than "Mr. Tambourine Man." This six-piece ensemble is equally adept at reinvigorating catchy but little-heard R&B tunes, such as Maxine Brown's infectious "Oh, No, Not My Baby." And not too many bands would reach for the flipped-out psychedelic frenzy of Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" and make it sound powerful and fresh. Most remarkably, FUBAR tackles the 1960s San Francisco cult group Love, spinning out energetic, inventive covers of two of that enigmatic group's most complex songs, "Alone Again Or," with its Latin-style saxophone wails, and "A House Is Not a Motel."
You don't expect a bunch of seasoned musicians to be this daring. But Tessier is a wild man like a caged animal shaking his cell bars and he's put together a band of musicians' musicians. Out front is the unprepossessing Sophia Hanifi, formerly of Map of the World, who doesn't look or act as if she has the kind of tart, tangy, soulful voice that can jolt your heart. The contrast between her almost evanescent stage presence and the power of her interpretations is disconcerting. The combination of Hanifi's sassy vocals, Tessier's rebel-rock attitude, and the rest of the band's talent and verve restores the heart and soul and unrepentant energy that rock used to have before it was hijacked by self-obsessed ironists.