In The Next World, You're On Your Own (1975)|
Review from Benway's House of Firesign
"In the Next World" is the last album put out on the Columbia label under the banner "The Firesign Theatre." This also might be considered the end of the second phase of the Boys' career and they go out with a bang. Even though the album's writing credits list only Phil Austin and David Ossman, the group is performing at the peak of their powers. Some of their most devastating media parodies are featured on this record, culminating with a take-off on Marlon Brando's refusal to accept his Oscar at the Academy Awards.
In reaction to the hedonism which was fast characterizing the late '70s, many characters on this album are confronted with having to pay for their past actions: a grizzled cop, Random Coolzip, reflects on the effects of his choice to put his job before his family in the majority of side one, "Police Street;" and everybody must answer for what America did to the Native Americans on both sides of the album.
The idealism of the Firesign's '60s output has given way to paranoia and a feeling of being under siege - a violent police siege occurs early in "Police Street," the Academy Awards are taken hostage on side two's "We Lost Our Big Kabloona," and two characters in a liquor store must protect themselves against the voices from "the next world" (also on side two). All the characters seem to run about existing solely as fodder for the media - real life leaks into TV & Film reality and vice-versa, much as it does to George Tirebiter on "Dwarf." However, whereas "Dwarf" shows characters seeing reflections of themselves (of different aspects of their personalities) on TV, "In the Next World" shows the TV experience as having become the nation's reality in and of itself. In short, in the '60s, we watched TV. In the '70s, we ARE the TV.
The album's general aggressiveness helps it's impact - the satire cuts more deeply here than on other records. After "In the Next," the Firesign Theatre would release a handful of "revue" type albums (sketches with no particular linking theme), none of which would equal this album's (and previous album's) effectiveness. They would re-visit their longer format with "Shakespeare's Lost Comedie," "Nick Danger, Third Eye in the Three Faces Of Al," "Eat Or Be Eaten (these last two without David Ossman)," and "Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death."
-- Phil Buchbinder