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FW Weekly Necessity and Futility

Fury III's Steven Nutt tunes up his melodrama muscle car.

By Lisa Garrett

JULY 27, 1998:  Compare the repulsive yet curious feeling of supermarket tabloids to the dark humor of Lenny Bruce and Samuel Beckett, and whistle The Who while standing in the checkout line. The result: an almost perfect description of Dallas band Fury III. Like the Plymouth vehicle they're named after, Fury III cruises along, picking up a little Velvet Underground, stopping for some lo-fi '60s garage mod and finally squeezing in pop culture and literary undertones.

"I first opened an anthology of Samuel Beckett because I saw myself mirroring the characters," says Steven Nutt, guitarist/ vocalist and the group's founder. He talks about stiff-legged Murphy, a character in the short story of the same name, evoking the image of a man riding down the street on a bicycle, one-legged, hopeless and lost. "It seems like all of his [Beckett's] characters are in the dark ... and have some kind of infirmity. He's a lot funnier than Lenny Bruce."

Nutt goes on to mention Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, referring to the similar thematic malaise in their music. All of these influences include a "razor's edge irony" - whether it's self-effacing or a reflection of society - and, when combined, "ride the line between misery and comedy."

Perhaps this defines Fury III's musical irony - a poppy sound with dark lyrics like "My promises scattered like broken glass and leaves/I might of once had some talent but I mistook it for grief." About Nutt's schizophrenic uncle, the title of the song, "Poor Me" is the comic relief, Nutt says, "to lighten it up a little bit."

Although the subject of this song is far from humorous, Nutt relates the ironic title to blues music. The fact that the lyrics in blues music, sometimes lamenting, sometimes funny, all have the purpose of making you feel better by singing them. This quality is similar to the duality of the black humor in Fury III's lyrics. "You can take them either way, depending on what mood you're in," Nutt says.

Before the current lineup, however, Nutt comments on how his lyrics and music were darker and how having a band altered his writing. The group created an outlet, steering the attention away from Nutt's abusive 9-to-5 customer service job, and thanks to Ben Johnston, Fury III's bassist and Jeff Ryan, their seventh drummer since the band's founding in 1995, the band has its present schtick. When asked about their audience, Nutt replies how the Orbit Room shutting down has affected the number of people coming out to see them. "We played with Bedwetter and Apples in Stereo and were starting to have a solid crowd - until they closed." Fury III has performed in Fort Worth previously, at the also defunct Electron Lounge and the Aardvark. While Nutt agrees that the crowd depends on the place, the ability to grab any audience, like the covers of supermarket tabloids, always shines through. (The packed house at Club Clearview two weeks ago testifies to this.) What Fury III has going for them is Nutt's Fuggs-meets-Yardbirds guitar jangling combined with their on-stage blues improvisation. Unfortunately, neither is heard on the ep, Poor Me. Nor is a filtered-down soul vibe, to which Nutt also subscribes. The future addition of a Hammond organ promises to shift the sound more to soul, however, and the melodramatic aspect will have a stronger base on which to stand.

Misery loves company, so to keep themselves from staying at home, Fury III plans to hit the road soon to support the September release of the six-song Poor Me.

Will Nutt continue to draw on the supermarket rag sarcasm or Cohen's embittered loneliness for his inspiration? "Inquiring minds want to know."

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