They Are the Champions 

Beyond the dirty words and digital jokes, there’s bone-crushing rock

In honor of the triumphant return of the Fucking Champs to Missoula, here are some interactive fifth-grade math class jokes you might enjoy. Simply pretend I am typing the figures in on my imaginary calculator and then turn the final figure upside down to view the punchline. If 710 Israelis fought 773 Arabs for 4 days over 5 oil wells, who would win? 71077345. Or how about this one? I hear your girlfriend has a new phone number, and it’s 55378008. Pretty good, eh? Remind me to tell you sometime about what happens when you look down your shirt and spell “attic.”

Moving on: Calculator script figures prominently in the saga of the embattled band known as the Fucking Champs and their right to go under a name that isn’t already hogged by the one-trick beezos who wrote, what, like one memorable song (“Tequila”), which PeeWee Herman, in his halcyon days, forever branded into our pop-culture retinas with the accompanying seat-belt dance in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Originally known just as The Champs, but under strain from that bunch of has-beens by the same name, the band flirted with the half-digital “C4AM95” (that’s still pronounced “Champs”) on their 1997 double LP III, better known in some circles by the Flying Saucer Attack-mocking spine inscription Home Taping Is Recording Music. But they finally followed the lead of Dinosaur Jr. (cf. Dinosaur) and Speedealer, né REO Speedealer (cf. the humorless REO Speedwagon) and settled on the Fucking Champs. If the “original” Champs did in fact put legal pressure on the young bucks, I hope their pettiness comes back to haunt them in the form of the Fucking Champs waving at them from a guest spot on “Saturday Night Live.” To hell with the Champs and their stupid “Tequila!”

Both parties should have agreed to settle with a Crossroads -style guitar face-off, although I guess I say that about everything. The Champs vs. the Fucking Champs, “We play one of yours/You play one of ours/And the winner gets the name.” The Fucking Champs would have split “Tequila” into an improvised Symphony for Cirith Ungol in Three Movements with plenty of Phrygian chords and suspended ninths and squealing harmonic pinches before the original Champs could even agree on the first note of “Valkyrie Is Dying.”

You know? ‘Cause there’s rock and there’s The Rock, and I wouldn’t want to dangle from a rope above an Orcish blade until I find a band that gets me as heavily in touch with my toiling inner D&D dwarf as the Fucking Champs. They’ve got the Teutonic bombast of Helloween without the howling falsetto, the transcendent harmonies of Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson’s ubiquitous bulge. The sprawling Roger Dean pageantry of vintage prog but without the insipid horrible overblown pomposity. And, in the liner notes to III, the erstwhile C4AM95 actually thank The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and Rictus of Cruel Malignance. I don’t even know what that is. I just know it’s cool.
The effing Champs, Volumen and Last of the Juanitas play Jay’s Upstairs Friday at 10 PM. Tickets are $5 (21+) and $7 (18 and up).

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