50 Best Albums, by Brendan O’Malley, #35. The Refreshments, Fizzy Fuzzy Big And Buzzy

My talented brother Brendan O’Malley is an amazing writer and actor. He’s wonderful in the recent You & Me, directed by Alexander Baack. (I interviewed Baack about the film here.) His most recent gig was story editor/writer on the hit series Survivor’s Remorse. Brendan hasn’t blogged in years, but the “content” (dreaded word) is so good I asked if I could import some of it to my blog. He did series on books he loved, and albums he loved. I thought it would be fun to put up some of the stuff here. So we’ll start with his list of 50 Best Albums. I’ll put up one every Monday.

Brendan’s list of 50 Best Albums is part music-critique and part memoir and part cultural snapshot.

I have always loved these essays, because I love to hear my brother talk. I am happy to share them with you!

50 Best Albums, by Brendan O’Malley

35. The Refreshments – Fizzy Fuzzy Big And Buzzy

I first heard this album on the 7th floor of an office building directly south of Central Park. I was working for The Hub, which was a “channel” on AOL back when you still paid by the hour to get online. The Hub was a joint venture between AOL and New Line Cinema and the fact that their business model included throwing money at me should give you an indication of just how far that internet bubble had expanded.

My journey to The Hub had been a strange one and it all started in my ex-wife’s brain.

She had been temping for a conglomerate of the magazine industry. Her job was to take their content and shoe-horn it into an AOL format. During this process she had to deal with many AOL execs and she eventually heard about something called AOL’s Greenhouse Project. Their mission was to find, acquire, develop and promote original AOL content.

Maria thought that the rabid world of romance novels, novelists and their fans would be a great community to bring into the online world. She used her knowledge of AOL platforms to design a sample cross-section of the interactive site dedicated to bodice rippers and forbidden petticoat exploration.

AOL Greenhouse was intrigued. They ran it all the way up the corporate ladder and it looked like they were going to buy it. At the last second they declined but they liked Maria’s ideas so much that they asked her if she wanted to join the team of one of the ideas they HAD picked.

This site was dedicated to the collecting and retelling and debunking of urban legends. It was to be called…Urban Legends. They hooked Maria up with the creator. They rented office space in the Village and set about building the site.

At the time I was temping and auditioning like crazy. When they asked me if I wanted to pose for pictures as the fictional host of the site I said sure, why not. I dressed a little like Indiana Jones and they took a bunch of photos. The actual host of the site then had to back out and they asked if I wouldn’t mind re-writing some of the legends up from existing source material, which was pretty dry and scholarly.

This became a part-time job. I was working during the day and cranking out internet size re-creations of those myths we all know. Well, as the deadline approached it became clear that they weren’t going to have enough material. I came on full-time as the primary writer of the legends and also embodying the character I’d only been in pictures up to that point.

Legs Urbano. Get it? Urban Legends. Legs Urbano.

For the next two years I was on deadline. The show was quite a success right out of the gate. I wrote an article a week examining the legends from an investigative journalist/private eye perspective. People responded, pouring local legends in from all over the country.

Our show lived on The Hub, the channel on AOL’s front page that was aimed at the MTV crowd, 18-35 white males. We were enough of a success that The Hub wanted to buy us out, have us join their company and not just live on their website.

Our boss was one of the most colossally insecure and narcissistic people I’ve ever met. In our little (by this time my sister Sheila was also working with us) 4-person outfit she could stand back and let us do all the work while taking credit for it. On a team of larger proportions she’d be exposed. In our discussions with the President of The Hub, I made sure to let him know that I was a working actor and that I would be pursuing acting work while working at The Hub. She saw this as a terrible betrayal. On our last day in the Greenwich office, all her fears boiled to a head and she attacked me. I didn’t answer the phones, I didn’t check with her about topics I’d been working on, etc. I quit.

As I gathered up my stuff, I realized that I didn’t want to quit. So I walked back into her office and told her I wasn’t quitting. I told her that her complaints were unfounded and that her complaints were all secondary to the contributions I’d made to the ACTUAL CONTENT OF THE SITE. My writing had struck such a chord in the ether that we were being picked up by the big fish. I didn’t say this but I knew it threatened her. I’d rendered her unnecessary.

The Hub itself was very different. 20-30 people in a cliche internet boom loft-like space. Pool table. Beanbag chairs. Loud music. Unconventional dress.

One of the perks was that we got sent free music by the cartload. Everyone wanted to get their music mentioned on this new thing called “the internet”. Amazing how far we’ve come.

Today’s album is something I’d never have heard without going to work at The Hub.

To me, Fizzy Fuzzy Big And Buzzy is about that time in life when you are no longer a kid but you aren’t adult yet. Very Douglas Coupland. Too much intoxication, too much meaningless sex, too much sun, too many road trips, too few destinations. When Jimmy Buffett sings about it, you long for it. When The Refreshments do, you feel like you need to dry out, straighten up, set some goals, turn things around.

I became absolutely obsessed with this album. This doesn’t happen to me often. I am in the middle of it right now with Chinese Democracy and that is how I know when an album will be with me forever. I can sing the guitar solos on Fizzy Fuzzy Big And Buzzy.

Which brings me to the primary reason that this album is on here. The guitar playing is DELICIOUS. The tone of the leads is just a hair heightened from the rhythm, leaving them linked and potent. The singer has what I consider to be the best straight rock voice from the ’90’s, more Vedder than Cobain but with none of the self-conscious bad acting that mars much of Pearl Jam’s work.

These guys go to Mexico. They pay for hookers and regret it. They fish. They beg their girlfriends to just kill them already and get it the fuck over with. They start fights when they are called “faggots”. In other words, they drink and face the consequences.

A few songs in you start to feel the sun brow-beating your hangover, trying to convince you just to have a beer to cut the edge. And while you’re at it, why don’t you just call that chick and straighten things out with her? She’ll see your point of view. Sure, she threw your photo album into the pool but she was pretty fucked up too.

The scariest part is that you are enjoying your descent. So you can’t see any reason to stop it.

And that is why it resonated with me so much. I was not where I was supposed to be. I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was not with who I was supposed to be with. Times like that, drunk seems like the best idea there is.

— Brendan O’Malley

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