As writer, singer, and bandleader, Jack Terricloth has fronted the ever-changing membership of the World/Inferno Friendship Society, a band that features a percussive cabaret-punk sound, and a penchant for tall tales that combine high-mindedness and satire. They play Friday at Union Transfer.
Since the W/IFS' 1997 album The True Story of the Bridgewater Astral League, Terricloth and company (as many as 30 musicians have ebbed and flowed, in, out, in), sometimes the mood has changed (gospel sounds have found their way into the mix), but not the aesthetic.
"We feel it has been refined and perfected, allowing for inevitable aging and getting smarter in exactly the way it should," Terricloth states. "Accidents never happen in a perfect world."
His collective's last album, 2011's odd, lovely The Anarchy and the Ecstasy ("Thank you for saying 'odd, lovely,' " Terricloth says. "I think it is something I have always aspired to be"), was uncharacteristic, a soft, bluegrassy album full of sad-eyed musings. "Some emeritus [players] rejoined the fold, I got to bang around the guitar for a summer - I just happened to play acoustic better than electric, so we went with that - and wound up doing something mellower."
But with new member Francis Morin, World/Inferno has returned to virtuosic guitar playing ("so loud and fast rules"). Its next album, This Packed Funeral, is a brusque song cycle about a group of estranged friends gathering for the wake of Grace Talicious, singer for the band the Paranoid Style.
"Some of the tunes are Inferno songs about the event, some are actual Paranoid Style covers," says Terricloth, who, in the spirit of Christmas, is giving away copies of the single at Union Transfer, "to get a jump on the kids singing along."
Terricloth is famously in love with Halloween. One of W/IFS' best albums is the ska-infused Hallowmas Live at Northsix. So what is he? A season-celebrating atheist?
"I am not an atheist," he exclaims. "I have accepted the Great Pumpkin into my life as my personal savior and know that he loves me and wants the best for me. For a small fee we can help you accept him into your life. Though our culture's high holy days of Hallowmas have passed, in December we also observe Beethoven's birthday, a holiday my family has observed for decades as a way to bring friends of all bizarre sects together."
If you're looking for bizarre sects, you can do no better than World/Inferno Friendship Society.