The Mutants – Curse Of The Easily Amused


Formed in 1977, San Francisco’s The Mutants were born a little too late for punk’s frenetic first wave, and a tad too early for the nascent hardcore boom. Nevertheless, The Mutants succinctly captured the cultural zeitgeist of a world that would soon be turned upside down by the policies of Thatcher and Regan. Fortunately, such social upheaval makes the perfect breeding ground for cutting-edge music and Curse Of The Easily Amused, The Mutants’ first retrospective collection for twenty years, presents some of the very best.

While punk often proclaimed itself a working-class movement, in reality it was born in art schools and universities (think Vivien Westwood and Malcolm McLaren) and that whole aesthetic is very much in evidence in the artier-than-thou The Mutants. Yet, rather than being po-faced and inaccessible, there’s something strangely adhering about this disc, and no more so than opening track ‘PARTY!’. The title suggests a hedonistic affair, but the truth is much darker with vocalist Fritz Fox adopting an existentialist air; he is a bemused observer floating atop a drug-infested nightmare and delivers his words with just the right amount of nonchalance. However, for all their high-mindedness, The Mutants never lose sight of song structure or melody, and ‘PARTY!’ remains an earworm that’ll haunt you long after the disc’s stopped spinning.

The Mutants were definitely charting new territory with their brand of art rock, but like most pioneers they got usurped by those who refined their sound for mass consumption. Case in point being 1978’s ‘W.A.S.P.’, a track with the sort of off-kilter (unashamedly) pop sensibility that undoubtedly propelled Blondie towards global stardom. But The Mutants had their influences too, and a homage to Iggy Pop can be detected on ‘Think Think Think’, yet it is used as a springboard towards something new, rather than nefarious copycatting. Likewise, ‘Modern Conversation’ is an extension of Lou Reed’s ‘New York Telephone Conversation’ (let’s not forget punk was born in the States via the Velvets, Stooges and MC5) only updated for the day-glo generation. The Cramps are another point of reference (who the band supported at their Napa State Mental Hospital gig) especially on the creepy ‘Insect Lounge’.

Unlike many of their peers, The Mutants aren’t in a rush to say their piece; Curse Of The Easily Amused isn’t your typical thrash-by-numbers fayre, (although they can be visceral too, check out ‘Noises And Numbers’) it prefers to create atmosphere and a sense of place. Building towards a huge crescendo, ‘Tribute To Russ Meyer’ is punctuated by a muscular riff, over which floats Fox’s tortured vocals, and the two make for an arresting combination (in a manner not dissimilar to a Meyer film). In fact, much of this album has a cinematic quality (it’s no surprise that ‘Tribute To Russ Meyer’ was used in the 1983 film Emerald Cities) and you get the impression that none of these songs would seem out of place on a Tarantino flick.

Spanning a period of six years and featuring eight tracks that have never appeared on a physical Mutants release, this compilation is perfect for the casual and hardcore fan alike and if someone was to ask you what was so great about art punk anyway, I suggest you play them Curse Of The Easily Amused.

Track List:

  1. PARTY! *
  2. Odd Man Out
  3. Modern Conversation *
  4. Love Song
  5. Think Think Think
  6. Too Much Too Soon
  7. Noises And Numbers *
  8. Insect Lounge
  9. The Other Government *
  10. Sofa Song *
  11. Space Song *
  12. W.A.S.P. *
  13. Missing In Action *
  14. Tribute To Russ Meyer

* Previously Unreleased