Tim Fite prides himself on epitomizing the atypical punk troubadour
. Sure, they’ve been a dime a dozen ever since Billy Bragg talked about the taxman and poetry, wagging a finger at capitalist Western civilization while strumming an acoustic guitar. In a certain way, the archetype has even become a cliché: punks don’t die, they just become folk singers. (See Bob Mould, John Doe, etc.) But the 27-year-old Fite isn’t exactly old, and he builds his songs with an orchestra of odd sounds, from banjos and drums to obscure samples. Refreshingly, he doesn’t resort to the type of left-wing broadsides that Bragg perfected, and instead dismantles his political and cultural targets through quirky stories and a mix of self-deprecation and sarcasm.
Still, Fite’s new Fair Ain’t Fair has a folky tone, even if he’s flipping 8-bit video game noises instead of a guitar pick. His voice is weathered and coarse, and he structures his songs around his whimsical lyrics. “There’s a man in the larder, he’s a barber/He’s got pallor like power and water/He’s hoping he’ll introduce himself to your daughter,” he sings on “The Barber,” a waltz about a neighborhood schemer. On his best song, “Big Mistake,” he turns his own clumsiness into a rousing singalong. “Tell me a dirty joke and I’ll laugh it off lightly/If I tell you a dirty joke you might not like me,” he sings. “Everyone gets to make one big mistake.”