Where to start with The World/Inferno Friendship Society

Phil Collins - October 2, 2017

The True Story of the Bridgewater Astral League album cover     Live at North Six album cover     Red Eyed Soul album cover     This Packed Funeral album cover

Sometimes you hear about a band and say "Hey, I should check them out." Sometimes you remember to go check them out. Sometimes you remember to add them to a mental list of bands to check out. Sometimes you forget what music is and what planet you are on. In fact, sometimes you wake up realizing that 20 years and half a dozen albums have gone by and you're still watching the clouds pass. It has happened to the best of us. So, without any judgment today I will tell you where I think you should start with The World/Inferno Friendship Society if you are late to the party. You can catch the Brooklyn-based cabaret punks at All Hands On Deck on October 14 at Cobra Lounge. See the full lineup and links to get your tickets here. All proceeds go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Read an interview we did last year with ringleader/vocalist Jack Terricloth here.

Start with Hallowmas Live at Northsix

I wouldn't often recommend beginning with a band's live album but hear me out. This is not just an introduction to World/Inferno's music but their whole vibe. Recorded at their annual Hallowmas show (their "Super Bowl" as Jack says on the album), Hallowmas Live at Northsix is as much a mission statement for the band as a glimpse at their live show. You'll hear the witty banter, song introductions and social commentary that mark World/Inferno shows; you'll hear some of the deep cuts that are only likely to come out at Hallowmas ("Pumpkin Time," "One For the Witches") and you'll hear a lot of the hits (perennial opener "Tattoos Fade" and many of the songs from Just the Best Party.) The album was recorded while Franz Nicolay was a member of the band. If Wikipedia is to be believed in these matters, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady was working A&R for DCN records at the time and arranged for World/Inferno to record the live album. Nicolay began recording with The Hold Steady shortly after this.

Move on to Addicted to Bad Ideas

Featuring new songs and re-recordings of old ones ("Ich erinnere mich an die Weimarer Republik," "Heart Attack '64,") World/Inferno's fourth album plays out as a concept album about the life of Peter Lorre. Complete with an orchestral overture, this is World/Inferno at their most theatrical. The band staged special performances of Addicted to Bad Ideas at arts festivals during 2009. These shows took place during Brian Viglione's (of The Dresden Dolls) tenure as the band's drummer. The re-recorded songs are full re-workings. The title track "Addicted to Bad Ideas" became an instant favorite upon the album's release, in my mind at least.

Just the Best Party and Red-Eyed Soul

I think it would be irresponsible of me to go any further without recommending both Just the Best Party and Red-Eyed Soul. World/Inferno's second and third albums contain a lot of their biggest hits, many of which you will recognize from Hallowmas Live at Northsix. The live album was released between these two records. "Only Anarchists Are Pretty," "Me V. Angry Mob," "Let's Steal Everything," "Fiend in Wien," "Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in This Room," "My Ancestral Homeland, New Jersey," "Secret Service Freedom Fighting U.S.A." and "Just the Best Party" are all great songs to see live. "All the World is a Stage (Dive)" is one that I have never seen them play. One day.

This Packed Funeral

World/Inferno's most recent album finished in the final four of our best of the year bracket in 2014. This Packed Funeral sees World/Inferno embracing their theatrical side again. The album centers on the wake of Grace Talicious, singer of The Paranoid Style. The album's songs are written from the perspectives of people at the wake, or are covers of the band The Paranoid Style. The result is a more rowdy outing than the previous, mostly slow-burning The Anarchy and the Ecstasy. The band turned their Hallowmas show into a wake for Grace Talicious that year. The concept is relatable and well-executed.

The True Story of the Bridgewater Astral League

This is the point in our journey when we finally arrive at World/Inferno's first full-length album. Why not start with the first album? Although this was surely the way many fans started with World/Inferno, if you're starting now it is better processed as a deep dive into the folklore this band is capable of producing. It is a concept album about a group of people using astral projection to carry out their mischief. Listen to this one at night while sipping some dry red wine. If you haven't been won over by all the previous albums mentioned, this one probably isn't going to do it for you either. If you listened to all the albums above and find yourself wanting more, this might be the album that turns you into a full on Infernite.

What remains

That covers most of the discography, leaving us with some perfectly good stuff left to sift through. There is 2011's The Anarchy and the Ecstasy, which I briefly mentioned earlier as a mostly slow-burning album. There are plenty of good songs on there, not least of which is the album's opener, "I am Sick of People Being Sick of My Shit." Don't skip East Coast Super Sound Punk of Today!, an eight song compilation of songs that had mostly been previously released on singles. This one came out in 2000, between their first album and Just the Best Party.