If you know Paul de Jong, it’s probably because he was one half of The Books, the plunderphonic savants whose 2003 album The Lemon of Pink is a masterpiece of inventive collage pop. In 2015, he released a solo collection of lush tone-poems called If, where he established himself as an accomplished writer and performer on the cello, his primary instrument. That album’s follow-up, ridiculously and perfectly titled You Fucken Sucker, is a decidedly more confrontational and discomfiting listen.
Aesthetically, the album seems to live in an alternate timeline where If doesn’t exist, picking up where The Books’ discursive approach left off on 2010’s The Way Out. But where The Books effortlessly hyperlinked found sounds, catchy choruses, and absent-minded motifs, You Fucken Sucker lets all its seams show.
The curtain opens on “Embowled”, a spritely folktronica fake-out that evokes The Richard D. James Album for the first minute or so, after which a dozen voices start shrieking at you from all over the mix. It’s gleefully nihilistic and a little unsettling. As the music fades in the final seconds, a single female voice comes into focus, screaming, “Shove this whole place right up your ass!” It’s a ludicrous thing to put in a song, something you imagine yelling at the back of your boss’s head after getting turned down for a raise.
The five-track run from “Doings” to “Doomed” hangs together like a bad-vibes suite, opening with a cascade of empty self-improvement platitudes spoken by a woman with an affable Queens accent: “Whatever you do, do more each day, and ask yourself to do that!” It sounds like the audio was pulled from a daytime talk show and cut up to magnify its absurdity. Moments like this harken back to Negativland and the punk-inflected days of plunderphonics, which seem to be de Jong’s primary influence throughout the album.
The suite continues with a man singing “I don’t enjoy what I’m doing” over a dusky jazz organ, then a brief interlude of spazzy electro-metal (think DJ Shadow’s “Stem” on yellowjackets), then another round of self-help sloganeering. Toward the end of “Doomed”, the woman from the first track returns like a Greek chorus: “Fuck you! Up your ass!” she screams. The first time I heard it, I cringed; by the tenth listen, I was cracking up.
The album’s second half offers some respite from the hysteria, particularly during the lovely eight-minute ambient piece “Wavehoven”. Even the title track could pass for a pretty indie ballad until the demented earworm chorus: “Fatherfucker, brotherfucker, sisterfucker, motherfucker / You fucken sucker.”
If this all sounds a little on-the-nose, that’s the point. You Fucken Sucker is audacious in its bluntness, eschewing all subtlety in favor of pure unchecked id. Disembodied voices rise up and scream impotently like commuters stuck in traffic, then reappear several tracks later and dare you to scream along. It all culminates with “Breaking Up”, an unsettling seven-minute tic-fit of skittery cymbals and obscene non-sequiturs. It’s fucken great.
You Fucken Sucker is now streaming, and available on vinyl from Temporary Residence Ltd.