Responding to the Madness

Audio Fiction’s “Songs in the Key of Orange Alert” deflates the terror hype

Audio Fiction is Mimi Ferraro (vocals, second from right ), Feargal O’Sullivan (lead guitar), Anthony Loupos (guitar), Thomas Moon (bass), and Mark O’Toole (drums).

“It’s official—orange is the new black,” said Audio Fiction drummer Mark O’Toole in a recent interview that ranged from war to music.

A New York–based rock band, whose sound has been described as, “a cross between Blondie and No Doubt with a touch of 10,000 Maniacs,” Audio Fiction is set to launch their newest release, “Songs in the Key of Orange Alert,” and, not surprisingly, politics figure into the mix. The album’s name was inspired by homeland security chief Tom Ridge’s color wheel of terror.

As bassist Tom Moon explained it, “After three years of being in constant orange alert, it’s kinda become a vague everyday sense of impending danger that we’ve all normalized.”

Still, the band has not been numbed into apoliticism, throwing barbs into the album’s first track, the pointedly political anti-war tune, “Tick Tock.” It decries the barbarism of our “American Psycho” with the lyrics, “I dropped a bomb and killed your cat/ Wondering if I missed your dog/ Did you like that? Want some more?/ Life is good, if you’re on the right side.” The success of the song lies largely in the irony that juxtaposes these caustic images with sugarcoated pop instrumentals.

“War is bad,” Moon said by way of explanation, adding, “‘Tick Tock’ is specifically a critique of the Bush administration’s arbitrary, black-and-white approach to foreign policy. I think the attitude of ‘Life is good when you’re on the right side’ pretty much sums it up.”

“Of course, the president is just one man,” O’Toole added. “Our ‘American Psycho’ is also a label for the mindset of all those hawks in this country who think bullying by force is the only way to win respect. We have a new kind of terror, alright––it’s a domestic kind from an administration that thinks by frightening a nation they can do anything they please.”

Audio Fiction, in a trademark bit of irony, will release the album on the morning after Election Day, to what they all agree will most likely be a landscape marked by “more war, a lousy economy and the draft for school kids.”

But the band’s sound is hardly gloom and doom. Like most commercially successful acts, nostalgia figures largely into the equation. Audio Fiction evokes an 80s New Wave carefree innocence, and ultra-chic lesbian lead singer Mimi Ferraro’s voice is lofty and full of sweet emotion. She can sing a pretty tune, to be sure, as evidenced on tracks like “Race the Hourglass” and “Wanna Be Wild,” but her voice seems even stronger when suffused with a bit of grit, as in the cut “Impenetrable.”

Perhaps not since William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” has there been a group so obsessed with loss, regret and time slipping away. O’Toole places this within the context of a “sense of hopelessness” that the past few years of war and terrorism alerts have created, adding: “Love, time, hope, politics—our songs are framed within that void.”

Though some of Audio Fiction’s lyrics do smack a bit sophomoric, such as in the otherwise solid “Impenetrable” (“Morning light, walk of shame/ My blood beats out your name”), the band is on the right path and moving with rapid precision toward becoming serious players.

The band is already working on new material for their next album.

“We feel like we have only skimmed the surface of our sound and creativity so far. We’re a fuzz ball bursting with ideas, the world our cipher,” offered Ferraro.

The future holds a full tour in January, a radio promotion with the Planetary Group in Boston, and “maybe a beer can cozy.” Catch Audio Fiction headlining on Saturday, December 11 at Kenny’s Castaway at 157 Bleecker Street, near West Broadway. For full details, call the club at 212-473-9870.

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