The Young Fresh Fellows – It’s Low Beat Time

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I strongly suspect I will end up owning a good chunk of the Young Fresh Fellows’ output. It’s only a matter of time. I like bands that are irreverent and carefree but still try enough (at least, enough of the time) to write melodic and clever songs.

What I Think of This Album

It’s difficult to fairly assess this from such a distant vantage point. Low Beat Time was released in 1992; I first heard it in 2023. That said, it is basically what you would expect from any Young Fresh Fellows album:  it’s a fucking mess, but eminently enjoyable. Thank you, Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch, for never disappointing.

This one is actually probably more of a clusterfuck than the average YFF disc. It’s got 16 songs, recorded at five studios in three cities, and with six different production credits. Perhaps not surprisingly, this eighth album was the last Young Fresh Fellows record for a good five years (and that 1997 release, A Tribute to Music, was only issued in Spain, supposedly).   

As usual, the best songs are the ones that combine the band’s irreverence with their pop smarts. So, dial up “Right Here,” “Mr. Anthony’s Last,” “Whatever You Are,” “Faultless,” “She Sees Color,” “Monkey Say,” “99 Girls,” “She Won’t Budge,” and “Green Green.”

Notable anomaly is instrumental “A Crafty Clerk,” which sounds like Brian Wilson got lost in the midway of a carnival in Iowa.

Along the way, you can make what you will of “Low Beat Jingle” (a fifteen second number comprised of typewriter, trumpet, and percussion), the schizophrenic but still melodic (sometimes) “Snow White,” the churning and ominous “Two Headed Fight,” the mysterious and hateful “A Minor Bird,” and a reprise of “Low Beat Jingle” plus more in the jaunty “Low Beat.” 

Soul legend Rufus Thomas sings on closing track “Green Green,” which is a cover of a New Christy Minstrels song. Keyboardist Lester Snell (Isaac Hayes) plays on at least three tracks, and William Brown (engineer of “Theme from Shaft”) contributed vocals and technical work on the cover of “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” (the Young Rascals). New York band the A-Bones help out on “Monkey Say”, too.

Butch Vig produced some tracks, as did Willy Mitchell (trumpeter and producer of Al Green and Solomon Burke). Conrad Uno (who worked with Bratmobile, Mudhoney, the Fastbacks, and Sonic Youth) and McCaughey worked on one track, and Sonics engineer Kearney Barton produced the two songs that sound like the Sonics. Doug Easley (Guided by Voices, Modest Mouse, Cat Power, Pavement, the Amps) also contributed to a number of tracks.

Only the Young Fresh Fellows know why the spine of the CD reads Doc Sharpie Is a Bad Man in place of the real title, though Doc Sharpie is credited with the album art. Alex Chilton is thanked in the liner notes.

The Best Thing About This Album

The unexpected soul influence, including an excellent Rufus Thomas vocal on “Green Green.”

Release Date

September, 1992

The Cover Art

I’m agnostic on this; it’s neither good nor bad.

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