Beginning with a string-centric Euro-influenced track, The World Inferno Friendship Society, Brooklyn's own vaudeville punk rock circus, begin the rock opera Addicted To Bad Ideas, the story of German film star Peter Lorre. Now, on its own, it’s another story from World War II era Germany, but in the hands of the World Inferno Friendship Society (WIFS), the story is a sort of epic.
Lorre was born to a Jewish family in Austria, developed a knack for playwriting, and moved to Germany in the 1920s. He got his break after being cast in M. as a child killer by noted director Fritz Lang. Upon the Nazi party taking power, he first took refuge in France and then London, where he met Alfred Hitchcock and was cast in The Man Who Knew To Much, a part he gained by bluffing his limited knowledge of the English language by pretending to be a remarkably agreeable individual, and learned his part phonetically.
He eventually made his way to California, where he made a name for himself playing wicked foreigners in 1940s American films, including roles in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Three Strangers. After World War II, his acting career suffered; however, he earned renewed notoriety by playing the first Bond villain in a TV adaptation of Casino Royale. In his later years, Loree was plagued by morphine addiction and depression and died of a stroke in 1964. In essence, he made a life out of playing the eternal stranger, the foreigner. In the petty world of 1940s film, he embodied the outcast. It's no surprise that a ragtag, anarchist circus spawned from an oft-villified subculture would find him to be an appealing figure.
This album practically flies past you, demanding a conscious engagement or promising to lose those whose attentions stray. The band manages to turn Lorre's morosely-tinted life into a strangely optimistic tale, playing that double-edged sword with a perfection that would've been lost on lesser artists. Starting out with “With A Good Criminal Heart” and moving in to “'M' is for Morphine,” (a reference to both his drug of choice and first role), the band sprinkles references to his life throughout the album and manages to chart a rich and full-blooded path. From the enthusiasm of his earliest years into his battles with depression and drug addiction and his role as a father, the album culminates in his disillusionment with Hollywood and ultimate death. The album's penultimate track is the catchy, all be it melancholic, “Addicted to Bad Ideas”, sure to become a mainstay of the band's noted live performances, followed by the morosely optimistic re-recording of “Heart Attack 64”, the story of his death, demonstrating lyrically the unique brand of optimism for which Lorre was noted. Complex both literally and musically, this is a must-own for those who've enjoyed the bands previous work, and for those with the attention span to take on an album-length journey.
Worth noting is the decidedly mature tone of this album, a departure from the rebellious antics of the band's previous two recordings. Some bands falter at such attempts. However, WIFS shine, capturing their trademark frenetic cabaret brand of punk rock and developing it perfectly for this project. Indeed, at this point their classification as a punk band refers more to the band's cult like following and their image than any musical categorization. The only question one is left with is 'What's next?' and 'When can I see you again?'