John Fekner City Squad - Idioblast 1983-2004 2xLP


Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: May 10th, 2024

With words as weapons and public infrastructure as his blank slate, John Fekner City Squad are always questing for the ineffable, even as they yearn for concrete change. Make no mistake, Idioblast is a serious party where everyone is welcome.

Released in 1984, Idioblast is a lost classic, a future shock narrative ahead of its time, and yet completely of its era, like few artifacts before or since. The cover tips you off from the jump—a crude but effective collage featuring classic Fekner slogans like Toxic Junkie, Growth Decay and Soft Brains Watch The Screen And Buy The Jeans. In an uncanny and tragic coincidence, the very first lyric on the album—“The place to be is on the space shuttle/if you’re brave enough to get on it”—seems to anticipate the Challenger disaster just two years later. But for the most part, the tracks on Idioblast directly reference the concepts that inspired Fekner’s visual art.

Musically, “Rapicasso” utilizes pneumatic pounding with an industrial edge as Fekner equates the great and controversial painter with risk-taking graffiti kids bombing trains and billboards across the city. Art is in a constant state of exploding—forms, paradigms, outdated ideas. Splitting the difference between hip-hop and new wave, the Santaniello-sung “The Beat” is like Thomas Dolby meets Run-DMC and should’ve been a radio staple for at least one sticky summer. It could soundtrack either a couples roller skate or a drug-fueled evening out.

Channeling Fekner’s slogan-stencil aesthetic, “Travelogue The 80’s” is a tour de force reminiscent of Negativland’s experiments in audio culture jamming. As Fekner details, “I grabbed all of the sounds via a shortwave radio picking up transmissions from LaGuardia airport and the TV. I recorded and edited on a Sony Pro Walkman and an Aiwa dual cassette deck.”

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