The Firesign Theatre returns with plenty of style after nearly 20 years (review)

My recommendation for this week’s listening: “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death” (Rhino), the first album in nearly 20 years from the Firesign Theatre — and it’s a doozy.

The Firesigns, who were masters of multileveled sociopolitico-dopio-humor even before there was a Monty Python or a Kids in the Hall, set the new album on the final day of 1999, which also happens to be the final day of Earth. Organized around the broadcast day of the RadioNow station, the CD imagines that our country has been taken over by one conglomerate, US Plus (slogan: “We own the idea of the idea of America”), and that Armageddon will arrive accompanied by ads for Polar Ice beer (“It’s yellow because you’re not”). News reports describe riots that break out when a rally of the Promise Breakers and a concert by the rock band the Four Cowboys of the Apocalypse are scheduled for the same day at the Dead Center concert arena.

If you’re new to the Firesign Theatre (which now includes Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Phil Proctor), you’re in for a mind-blowing treat. If you’re an old fan, trust me: It’s their best since “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.”