Archive for March, 2014

Cloud Nothings are fun. That’s the best way to describe them, and it is certainly not meant as a criticism. They are just a straight-up, no-bullshit, catchy-as-shit garage rock meets ‘80s alternative dance-a-thon. Following 2012’s Attack on Memory, Here and Nowhere Else is leaner, meaner and packs a bigger punch. It is arguably a little less inventive at the same time. There is nothing that comes close to the 9 minute brilliance of “Wasted Days”, for instance. But I think to say such a thing would be a tad harsh. When you listen to the first few tracks of Here and Nowhere Else, they do seem to rely upon a tried and tested formula: scrappy, yet melodic, lo-fi garage rock. The key change in “Psychic Trauma” is brilliant, but it is a trick that can only be used once for maximum effect. In opposition to this criticism, I would counter two things: (1) If it’s this catchy and it works, why try to force it in novel directions? (2) You probably haven’t listened to the second half of the album.

What makes Cloud Nothings interesting, what makes them different from being just another garage rock band, is their pure emotion and angst, dripping from every song. But it only really begins to make its presence felt in two songs towards the end: “No Thoughts”, which buzzes along with a pop-punk-y stride, before singer Dylan Baldi descends into a primeval scream of “You’re born/You’re gone”, and “Pattern Walks”, easily the longest song on the album, clocking in at just over seven minutes, but which complements, rather than separates itself, from the rest of Here and Nowhere Else. As well as the surface level of immediacy of the poppy, garage rock, as with the ultra-catchy “I’m Not Part of Me”, there is a depth here, which touches on post-punk and grunge; indeed, the raw emotion of Bleach comes to mind at times here. There is another obvious comparison here: the lo-fi garage-punk of Wipers. But grunge is arguably where Cloud Nothings remain lyrically: disillusion, disaffection and dissatisfaction. The ‘80s alternative/college rock scene sung about being disconnected from the rest of the world 30 years ago (“I’m not telling you all I’m going through/ I feel fine), and you could argue that this ground need not be retread, but while some bands have merely aped this era’s bands, Cloud Nothings seem to respect, and build upon, what they did. Which is how pretty much all good music works.

Gorilla Marketing cover art

Last pick was Go for it by SLF and I tried to go back to the early stages of Punk. This one is Gorilla marketing by The Steinways from 2008 which will show that an album doesn’t have to be old or from the 90’s to be a pop punk classic. Gorilla marketing was their second and final full length. The one before was Missed the boat, which I had indeed missed the boat on. I’m pretty sure I saw the video to “I wanna kiss you on the lips” on YouTube once and thought it was funny, but never bothered checking the album out. I remember Ben Weasel talking on his radio show about how great the new Steinways album would be if they hadn’t sabotaged themselves by swearing too much. I don’t think I considered purchasing the album before I heard “Manhattan boots” on the great Canadian radio show “Rocket to Russia”.

What really struck me as awesome with the band were the four personalities in the band: Grath Madden, the lead singer and comedian, who really spoke to me in his song about sweat pants(which I will get to later), Ace hole, the guitarist who showed us that it’s possible to write an unlimited amount of songs about getting drunk and fucking up with girls, Michelle Shirelle, the bassist who on their Rocket surgery 7’’ showed us that songs about necrophilia don’t have to be long, dark and sung by a creepy man, but rather could be 15 seconds, catchy, funny and from a female point of view and Chris Grivet, the drummer who got mentioned in just about every episode of Weasel radio back in the day as Mr. Weasel’s arch enemy. He was the drummer in the awesome band The Shy guys (who I probably will get back when I pick “Breaking Up is Hard To Do”)

—————————————————————————————————————

Gorilla marketing was released on June 24, 2008. To me, it’s a way better album than Missed the boat and I think the title is pretty clever. The album cover is simple, yet effective. Yellow background and a gorilla holding up a Steinways banner, Gorilla marketing!

—————————————————————————————————————

1. “Arena Rock”: Starts with a guitar solo, which might explain the title, and the lyrics are about getting old. Like his song “Fucking February” Grath sings about the winter being over, but he can still feel it being present. This song is some of his finest work, lyrically. “Deciding’s still like guessing/and sometimes things are still depressing/I mope around, rocks rolling in my shoes”

2. “Missed the Boat”: I always liked it when a band wrote a song with the same name as their album, but put it on their next album instead. This might be my least favorite song on this album, but it’s still pretty good. It’s another of Grath’s funny, yet depressing tristesse songs. It’s about wasting your life away drinking soda and eating fast food.

3. “Oh My Fucking Gosh”: It’s one of Ace’s songs and it’s catchy as hell. “You got me in trouble, so much trouble now!” It’s seems to be about a girl from a band called Challenger and the protagonist feels like a dick and he claims he watched her more than Paint it Black, which might be a reference to the movie from 1990, but I don’t know.

4. “Fuckmarket Pharmacy”: The music is the exact same as Missed the boat’s “Fruitmarket Fantasy” and the lyrics are about ditching work because of not getting to sleep the night before and instead sitting at home and writing songs and in the end concluding that you should probably go to work anyway . The song touches on a lack of inspiration and having a continuing theme in every song “Dear girl, my girl, oh girl, I wanna girl you girl” (“Dear Girl” is a song from Missed the boat as well). He also claims he wrote this song before he stole it from himself. Surprisingly enough, this does feel like a complete different song than “Fruitmarket fantasy” and Grath also continues the success with his other band: House Boat.

5. “Oh Angela”: Now this is the song that really made me love the Steinways and made me purchase the album. The intro has fantastic and the “oh Angela” part could have been a great chorus, if Grath wrote choruses. The song tells the tale of someone waiting for a girl to call him, but is fully aware that she won’t and he has waited for years and is ready to wait another one while he’s choking on the chances he has blown.

6. “Attaching Transmittals to Erection Drawings”: The song has a funny name and I never get it right without reading it for a long time. Another song about getting old and being bummed out about it. The song starts with the protagonist getting a new job because he got fired from his last job. He later realizes that he needs a vacation, but in fact his whole life has been a vacation.

7. “Half Baked Heartache”: This is a pothead love song and probably Grath at his most romantic. He makes cornbread sound like the ultimate aphrodisiac. The song has female vocals from his bandmate, Chelsea, in Short Attention (which is a band you should check out if you like 20 second songs). The song is about the protagonist having a feeling that everyone else thinks he and his girl are crazy, and he goes from caring about it to not caring about it, to in the end concluding that it’s everyone else who is crazy and all he wants to do is make out with her, how cute is that?

8. “Manhattan Boots”: Now this is a song you might not want to go out in public and sing. In the lyric sheet on the cd it says “Can you believe I wrote this song? It’s pretty embarrassing really”. The song is about being at work and wanting to jerk off while looking at all the girls passing by and in the end he expresses the jealousy he feels towards the guys that gets to have sex with these girls.

9. “The 400th Blows”: This song shows more of the failed ambition and depressing work scheme of the protagonist that re-occurs time after time in Grath’s compositions. The song starts up with a great drum beat and bass line that helps really form the melody of the song, and this might be one of the most underrated Steinways songs.

10. “Good Morning Sunshine”: The perfect song for lazy slobs to use as an alarm clock. What better way to wake up and face the day than with Grath telling you you’re a lazy piece of shit? The song reaches its catchiest peak with “Good morning Sunshine, wake the fuck up, WAKE THE FUCK UP!”

11. “It’s My Hair”: A song from Michelle Shirelle. This song serves as a contrast or possibly an answer to the previous song. It’s a song everyone can relate to. “Got stuck, ran out of luck/wasted it all on a morning in bed”. The song also expresses the protagonist’s longing to get the fuck out their current predicament and go far away.

12. “Senior Prom Jr.”: This song shows how much of an eloquent rhyme smith Grath Madden is. Since I got this album, this has been one of my favorite Steinways songs. It’s quite short song, but it says so much in little time. The song ends with the line: “One kiss, one beer/and while it was pretty fucking lame/It was probably the highlight of my year”

13. “Good Grief”: Another song from Ace hole and maybe his best song along with “Always Never”. And isn’t it great to, for once, have a chorus is in a song? Just for one song? And it’s a great chorus too! The song tells the tale of a drunken guy wanting a girl to ditch her boyfriend and come dance with him and then of course, make out.

14. “(Nobody Wants To) Make Out (With Me ((Because I Wear Sweatpants): A song from the first edition of the legendary PPMB songwriting game which gave us classics like “Jazz is like the new coke” by the Ergs! And “Her new company” by the Tattle tale and of course “Making out okay” by the Ricky Davis experience. The song is about being a nerdy kid that can’t get the girl of his dreams, because he has chosen to wear sweatpants, which is the nicest piece of fabric one can wear. This song is a classic and it’s quite different than the rest of the band’s output, with its hip hop beat and synths.

15. “CGI”: The song starts up pretty slow, and like Manhattan boots there is a certain creepiness to this song with lines like “In a couple of years/your sister’s gonna be hotter” and later the song gets sped up. I used to mishear the lyrics in the middle of the song and thought Grath sang “You’re like my favorite Charlie’s Angel” and I thought that was great and was disappointed when that was not what he sang, oh well.

16. “The Internal Cowboy”: A short instrumental outro to this great album, I think the title is a parody of Against Me!’s “As the Eternal Cowboy”

—————————————————————————————————————–

I just realized that in three out of four albums in the column, the bands have started with the letter “S”, oh well, the next album will be The Queers’ “Love Songs For The Retarded”. They start with the letter “Q”.

 

 

Cannibal Island is an EP by The Young Rochelles. I’ve always had a hard time separating this band from The New Rochelles. What I expected from this EP was very Ramones-ish and I was scared I was gonna hear it once and enjoy it and not listen to it more, but I was surprised. The songs are snotty, fast and loud. The songs are all fast punk rock with an edge and the choruses usually burst into contagious and poppy choruses that are sugar sweet and catchy.

The title track “Cannibal Island” is a great song, and it really is a breath of fresh air for Pop Punk where the status quo is to grow beards and be boring or just ape an old band. Ricky sings “They are animals oh yeah/Island cannibals” and it has the sing-along quality that makes you want to sing along with it even though the lyrics are kind of silly. The EP is only 7 minutes and few songs even clock in over 2 minutes and during these 7 minutes they manage to bring us songs that sound like the snottiest of Beatnik termites songs and something close to The Vindictives, there are gang vocals and even a cover of the Methadones’ “Less than zero”.  The lyrics are immature and simple and some of them could easily fit into Welcome to Goonington beach by The Gooningtons, which is a compliment! The EP has a stellar production and there’s a nice tambourine in some of the songs. If I was gonna say something negative it’d be the use of Auto tune, which is cute and funny the first time, but I could see it getting draining after few listens and ruin a pretty good song! All in all I think The Young Rochelles did a great job and if you like Pop punk, this is an EP you need to check out!

RH

Check it out: http://theyoungrochelles.bandcamp.com/

As the first two albums in this column both were from the 90’s, I figured I’d pick something from the early 80’s next. I also wanted to do a SLF album, the first two albums: Inflammable Material and Nobody’s Heroes are considered their classics. Their later albums are often hated or ignored by punk fans and I always found that weird. The first SLF album I ever got was Now then, as a treat I bought myself after a trip to the dentist in 2006. I had heard a few songs by them in 2004 and was surprised to hear what Now Then sounded like, but I really liked it. Go For It is the album between Nobody’s Heroes and Now Then and it’s maybe their most ambitious album. The idea was that every song could be a single and it seems they tried to write every song in a different genre without losing the SLF touch. The album is also a lot poppier than the previous albums; I feel like this is the album that suited the column the most.

Go for it was released April 17 1981, supported by the single “Just fade away”. The album only has 10 songs, but they are all pretty long, which might be the turnoff for a lot of punks. All the lyrics are written by their manager and author Gordon Ogilvie, and still this album seems more personal than the earlier records that were more on the political side. The album, as the earlier ones, deals a lot with living in Belfast and getting out of there, but this time it’s from a more personal point of view than the political one of Nobody’s heroes and Inflammable material.

————————————————————————————————————————–

1. “Roots, radicals, rockers and reggae”: The album starts off with a cover. The original is by Bunny Wailer, who was the drummer of the Wailers, though his song is called “Roots, Radics, Rockers and Reggae” and the title is misspelled on the album. I love the title, because alliterations are fun! The lyrics are very different in the two songs, whether this is because Wailer had several versions of the song or if SLF wrote new lyrics for it is uncertain (the song is credited to both Bunny Wailer and SLF and not Gordon Ogilvie). The only really recognizable part of the song is the intro and the chorus.  There’s actually a video of me dancing to this song on YouTube from Berlin 2010. I do my signature dolphin jump.

2. “Just fade away”: The first single from the album, it charted 47 on the UK charts. I think the title is a reference to Buddy Holly’s “Not fade away”, Holly’s classic is a song about loving a girl a whole lot and not wanting love to fade away. This song says the opposite; it’s basically a song where the protagonist tells a girl that’s into him, to fuck off. There are lots of contrasts in the lyrics that show how one can have fun with language like “She asks for more, and I give less” and “She asked me out and I gave in”. The band’s goal was to have 10 very different songs that could be singles, but this song actually sounds a lot like the last song: “Piccadilly circus”. I really love the solo at the end.

3. “Go for it”: The title track and an instrumental. To have an instrumental song as the third track, is a weird choice, and in my opinion, a terrible choice, because it ruins the whole flow of the album. The song really suits as intro music, and I think it’s been used by sports shows and the band still uses it as the intro song before they start playing. It’s a very simple track, but there are a lot of interesting elements in it and it has a great bass line.

4. “The only one”:  The first song on the album that is sung by Henry Cluney (the others have been sung by Jake Burns). The song is about frustration and the feeling of being alone in the world that feels a certain way. In the last verse the song concludes that people are not alone.  “It makes you so angry, a rage that’s all your own/it makes you feel so lonely, but you’re not alone”. The song is slow compared to the earlier songs and especially to the band’s earlier material.

5. “Hits and misses”:  A song about a serious subject, domestic violence. I think the title is a pun. The lyrics to the song are bleak and the song is catchy. The song was inspired by the erotic thriller Dressed to kill from 1980 with Michael Caine in the lead role. Caine is mentioned in the song (not one of his character’s names) as a reference to the infamous shower scene from the film. I don’t think the movie is even about domestic violence. The movie is about murder and the song serves more like a contrast to the bizarreness of the movie. Movies often give the viewer a distance to situations and horror. The bridge says that an abuser isn’t necessarily a character you’d see in a movie, it could basically be any guy you see in the street or some of your friends. “I’m not talking about a psycho-killer, Sonny, it’s not one of those/ It could be you/ It could be me/ It’s someone we all know”. The song is a social comment on how society shrugs their shoulders and treats domestic violence as par for the course instead of a terrible crime.

6. “Kicking up a racket”: Another Henry song and possibly the fastest song on the album and shows that the band is still punk. The song is about sitting in your room and listening to records as loud as possible. The song was written in the time when the band was in their highest peak in fame. And Cluney describes a feeling of introversion: sitting alone in your room instead of partying like bands are expected to do when they have reached fame. The song also seems like a forefather to the straight edge movement. The protagonist does not smoke and drink and find his pleasure in listening to records and turning up the volume.

7. “Safe as Houses”: The longest song on the album and the slowest song and to a lot of fans that might be a turnoff, but I think this is one of their best songs if not the best! The song is played in reggae style. The lyrics tells the story of two individuals(one girl and one boy) who have dreams they want to pursue, but end up settling down instead because of parents or fear the unknown. The last album had a song called “Gotta getaway” which dealt with getting out of Belfast and how it was common for Northern Irish kids to get out of Belfast and go to London, this song was about people who did the opposite and played it safe. The song encourages people to follow their dreams and the last chorus ends with the album title: “You must Go For It!”

8. “Gate 49”: This is also one of my favorite SLF songs and by far the Henry song I enjoy the most. It’s also the shortest song on the album. The song has a 50’s rockabilly feel to it with a very poppy melody and production. The song sounds like a typical love song, with lyrics about wanting to get back to someone you love. In the early 80’s gate 49 was the gate at Heathrow where planes went to Belfast. The song shows a feeling of homesickness and wanting to go back to a lover in Belfast, or simply go back to Belfast itself. This is the exact opposite sentiment than that which is sung in songs like “Gotta getaway” and “Safe as houses”. This gives the listener a feeling of ambivalence.  The harmonies in the last verse really make it one of the cutest songs I know.

9. “Silver Lining”: The second single from the album and a live staple to this day. It charted at 68 on the UK charts. The song is a perfect example of the band trying new styles and still being SLF. This song is inspired by the Motown era and has a horn section and an organ, with Jake Burns’ scratchy punk vocals it’s an interesting mix. The lyrics, in the same manner as “Safe as Houses”, deals with not giving up on your dreams or let other people tell you what to do with your life, a classic punk rock ideal. The bridge also borders on socialist as the protagonist wants to give and distribute the wealth and get an equal share back. The song is both positive and negative as it expresses that shit’s fucked, but it could be worse, and the chorus ends with “there’s always someone better off than you”

10. “Piccadilly Circus”: Like I said earlier, this song reminds me a lot of “Just Fade Away”, the melody has similarity and it has a very similar structure. They both have a guitar solo that fades out the song; the solo in “Piccadilly Circus” fades out the whole album. The similarity gives the listener a feeling of there being a chronology in the album. I think this song, however, is a lot better! The song is a true story about a businessman going from Belfast to London and gets stabbed in Piccadilly Circus. And the song describes grotesque images of how it happened. The last verse concludes “He tried to put it in his past, and flew safe home back to Belfast”. This adds to the re-occurring theme of “Belfast vs London”. It’s always common to hear about how much terror and horror was in Northern Ireland at the time with the troubles and segregation. And the tale of a man from Belfast being stabbed in London and going back to his safe home makes us question that for a minute. Together with “Gate 49” it creates Belfast as “home sweet home” and I think for someone like me who is not from Northern Ireland it’s hard to understand, but it makes me feel like the album as a theme, even if it doesn’t necessarily have one.

———————————————————————————————————————-

Like Screeching weasel’s Wiggle, Go for it also has a lot of bonus tracks, but I figured I’d just write about one.

Bonus track “Mr. Fire coal man”: A cover of the Wailing souls’ classic from the 1960’s, this was the first version I heard of the song and what got me to love the original. The lyrics consists mostly of famous sayings and idioms like “you ever see smoke without fire, but what you sow you got to reap” and “the man who lives by the gun ends up dying by the gun”. What makes it different than their other reggae covers is that they actually kept it a reggae song.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Though this is the album the band likes the most themselves, it’s not an album the music world or punk fans appreciate, so my goal was to change that, but I don’t know if I will succeed. The next album up is Gorilla marketing by the Steinways.

Ace (Azeem Sajid) plays in pop-punk super-group Houseboat, and has now started a new ‘solo project’ called Skinny Genes. If you have yet to hear it, I highly recommend you check the 7″ out. I asked Ace a few questions about his bands, the New York pop-punk scene and the difficulties of the recording process for Skinny Genes first 7″. So, read on, bitches.

Hello, Ace. Tell the world about Skinny Genes. What’s it all about?

Hey, Dave! Skinny Genes is a pop punk “band” that is comprised of just me. Thanks for the interview!

How and why did Skinny Genes come about?

Oh! There’s more. Well, I’d been tossing around the idea of starting my own band for years, but, honestly, I’m terribly slow with songwriting. It can take me years to finish a song, as is the case with the song “Worst” on the 7″. I wrote the first version of that song in 2008, while The Steinways were still together. It took me 5 years to turn a terrible song into a mediocre one. Anyway, I told Sam from Traffic Street that I was thinking of starting a band and he wanted to do a 7″. I realized putting a band together was (and still is) a huge pain in the ass and decided to do it as a solo thing. After procrastinating for months, I booked time with Chris Pierce in early 2010, realized the songs were total crap and promptly cancelled at the last minute. I sort of lost interest and when Sam shut down Traffic Street I thought, “Oh, there’s the missed opportunity I’d been waiting for.” I also got super caught up at my shitty job that prompted a complete creative rut for a few years.

I quit my shitty job and was bummed out for a while. It was the perfect time to try again and I dove headfirst into writing and re-writing. I was much happier with the results, booked recording time and just went for it.

Talk me through the recording process for “Meh”, your first 7”.

Honestly, it was really exhausting and a bit stressful doing everything myself! I was delirious and sore as hell when we were doing vocals and by the time we finished, my brain and ears were completely shot and I thought everything sounded like ass. When I got the mixes, though, I was super-happy.

Thankfully, I had demo’d everything at home on my computer, so I knew exactly what I was going to be doing before going to record; tempos, harmonies, song keys, lyrics, etc. The only “prep” I had to do was practice drums a bunch. Chris Grivet (of Triple Bypass and Panther Moderns fame) helped by playing guitar. I recorded at Sonic Iguana with Luke McNeill (Copyrights), who House Boat has done two LPs with, so it was pretty relaxed. Aside from another engineer, Philip, that stopped in to assist here and there, it was pretty much just Luke and I for the majority of the recording. Mass Giorgini also popped in once in a while to say hi and make dick jokes at Luke’s expense. I’m sure it got boring for Luke at times having no one else to talk to while I was recording, especially the drums, which I did without any reference guitar and totally from memory. It was literally just me playing drums for hours with no musical accompaniment. But, after we were done for the day, we’d proceed to get drunk and hang out. Sonic doesn’t have Wi-Fi, unfortunately, so, y’know, whiskey and stories during downtime. Luke’s a great dude to pal around with. Philip mixed everything afterwards and Mass mastered it. They both did awesome jobs.

Following on from “Meh”, what are your future plans for Skinny Genes? Are there are any more releases in the pipeline?

I recorded 13 songs but was only able to finish 10. 5 are on “Meh,” and another 4 will be on a future 7″ (as soon as I get the artwork done); the last one I have no idea what to do with yet. I’m also not sure when/if I’ll get ever the last 3 completed; if I do, maybe another band will wanna do a split?

Fortunately, I’ve been experiencing a creative spark in the last few months and have been working on a whole bunch of new songs, so Skinny Genes “The LP” is definitely in the works. I’m actually more excited about the new stuff than anything I’ve done before, which is, of course, the most cliche thing to say, but it’s true! I’m also finally looking to put a band together to record, play some shows and maybe even do a tour. I’m not rushing anything, though. Working at my own pace without any expectations is pretty comforting.

As well as Skinny Genes, you of course play guitar for Houseboat. What’s going on with Houseboat these days? Are there any plans for a follow-up to The Thorns of Life?

I play bass in House Boat, Dave! Yes, there’s a new House Boat LP in the works. We were planning to record in the Spring but this Euro tour opportunity came up. We’re planning to do it later in the year instead.

Although it is only early days in Skinny Genes, would you say that you prefer writing songs alone, or as part of a band, with the other members of Houseboat?

I like both, but they’re really not that different. Songs in House Boat (and Steinways before that) are 95-100% complete before the rest of the band hears them. The only difference is having four opinions versus one. Both have their merits and annoyances (Chris Grivet).

The Thorns Of Life cover art

What is the New York/New Jersey pop-punk scene like these days? We can look back at a few years ago and say it was pretty great, with bands like Unlovables, The Ergs!, For Science, and of course Steinways. But do you think there is still as much going on these days?

There’s a scene for sure but I’m pretty removed from it these days. That’s not really a comment on the scene, just me being an old, boring fart. There are definitely shows going on and new bands popping up all of the time, so it still exists but maybe not in the same way it did a few years ago, as far as traditional pop punk. Things are much more varied as far as themes and sounds, if that makes sense. My favorite new local band is Now People, featuring Zach from Liarbirds, Danny from Modern Machines/Used Kids and, of course, Mikey Erg. They sound nothing like any of their previous bands but it’s still super-good. Iron Chic rules, as well.

Lets end with some more personal questions: Azeem, why are you called Ace?

Well, my birth name is Ace and somehow I got stuck with the nickname Azeem, so, I dunno, you figure it out!

How did you get into punk rock?

As with most folks my age, Nirvana was my awakening, which led to alternative rock and thrash metal. The difference between me and most of my peers is that Dookie did not have much of an impact on me. Dun-dun-dunnnn! I got into the EpiFat stuff super-hard and Green Day didn’t really do it for me. A year later, I started checking out the Ramones and was into it. An older high school friend of mine made me a mixtape with a bunch of Lookout bands; Queers, Hi-Fives, Riverdales, Op Ivy and that stuff sounded really awesome. When my best friend bought Screeching Weasel’s “Boogada,” it was all over. It was the greatest music I had ever heard and completely changed my life, for better or worse. I became obsessed with anything and everything Lookout and pop punk. (For the record, Insomniac is the best Green Day album, by far.) When Mutant Pop came around, I abandoned ship and got into indie rock, 90’s emo and 80’s hardcore. That era of pop punk was important to, and had a huge impact on a lot of my friends, but it really soured me. The Ergs! and Copyrights pulled me back into pop punk and I’m stoked that they did. So many awesome bands and records have come out in the last 10 years. My tastes are all over the place these days. Like, I unashamedly love Justin Timberlake, am planning on getting a Converge tattoo and would pay a ridiculous amount of money to see The Smiths reunite.

Finally, how did you get involved with The Steinways?

I became friends with all of them through a girl that I was dating. I met her at the first Steinways show, which a band I was playing in at the time also played. Funny thing is, I thought they were terrible, haha. It was about a year or so later that they asked me to join on bass and I suggested I play guitar instead. I had yet to play guitar in a band and thought, “This shit is so simple, might as well.” I mean, I was reluctant because, seriously, the band wasn’t very good at the time. Michelle switched to bass, Grath started writing really good songs and I got really into it, but, best of all, it was fun. Another funny thing is that, at the time, I was the least acquainted with Grath and we’ve now been playing music together for a decade. That’s fucking weird, man.

DB.

Check out the bands:

Houseboat: http://houseboat.bandcamp.com/

Skinny Genes: http://skinnygenes.bandcamp.com/

The next album up in “Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks” is Blink 182’s Enema of the state. It might not be the wisest choice of an album, because I feel like this might be the most biased column I will ever write on my little keyboard. Blink was the pop punk band I grew up on, so to pick a blink album for this column would almost be a necessity. I could’ve gone for my favorite blink album now, Dude ranch. I could have gone for Take off your pants and jacket, which I got at a record store in November 2001, which marked my transition from a weird dude with glasses into the world of Pop punk; as we know these two aren’t mutually exclusive. I could have gone for their eponymous album from 2003, which people constantly cream their jeans over. Instead I chose Enema of the state, an album I got for Xmas about a month after I had landed Take off. I had no idea what I wanted for Xmas as I had my two front teeth intact and that sort of imagination was never my strong suit. However, I was aware that there was another Blink album than Take off your pants and jacket. I think what I remember most from that Xmas is putting Enema of the State in the CD-player for the first time, and it is also one of the best holiday memories I have. So while neither my favorite album nor the first one I got, the choice was still pretty obvious!

Enema of the state was released June 1, 1999, exactly 32 years after The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers lonely hearts club band. The album sold over 15 million copies worldwide and scored three hit singles, “Adam’s Song”, “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things”, that became the biggest hit on the album and their biggest hit to date with its novelty video, which parodied the popular artists at the time. It’s safe to say that if one stands by the punk ideals that music should be D.I.Y and noncommercial, this is as far from that as it comes. It’s as mainstream as a pop punk ever was, except for maybe Green day. With the porn star Janine Lindemulder on the front cover it shows the immature humor the band stands for, but if dick jokes was all this band had I don’t think it would’ve had the appeal it has.

—————————————————————————————————————–

1. “Dumpweed”: The songs starts with an iconic intro and goes into the interlude which is played on two strings and gives the listener a taste of the simple yet smooth melodies that are ahead of them. This song is sung by the guitarist, Tom Delonge, and he opens the first verse with his snotty, nasally vocals singing “It’s understood, I said it many ways”. Dumpweed is a song you have to sing along to whether you want to or not. And if you’re one of those political correct people, you don’t! The lyrics are Blink at their most misogynistic and the protagonist wants to leave a girl and get a girl that he can train like a dog. We have to remember that this is not a political song to proclaim that women should be treated like dogs; it’s written from a character’s perspective and I doubt Blink would hold such an opinion. And when it comes to sexism does any pop punk band really have a clean slate? And is a listener’s job to be a moral judge or to be entertained? A character in a song, a book or a movie doesn’t have to be likeable!

2. “Don’t Leave Me”: The second song on the album is a song sung by bassist Mark Hoppus and is a simpler song both lyrically and musically. My favorite part of the song might be the tambourine which is very reminiscent of the Ramones and maybe even the Beatles. And the lyrics are pretty funny and deal with a protagonist who begs his girl not to leave him and not let his dark past have an effect on their future relationship and she answers “Don’t let my door hit your ass”

3. “Aliens Exist”: Another song sung by Tom, the song is about his passion for UFO’s and conspiracies. The song has the most prominent rhyming scheme of the album, the verses have a A-B-C-C-B rhyming even though it uses assonances like “boring” and “stories” and “above” and “dumb”. The song tells the story of someone, with a child-like attitude, similar to the protagonist in Screeching weasel’s “Don’t turn out the light”, who fears being abducted by extra-terrestrials. The song’s final message is “I’m not like you guys, 12 majestic lies”, which is a reference to the majestic 12, the alleged secret committee who investigated flying saucers during the Truman administration.

4. “Going Away to College”: The ultimate Valentine’s Day love song, sung by Mark and harmonized by Tom on the choruses. Mark apparently wrote this song on Valentine’s Day while watching the teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait and though this song makes me think of the 90’s and gives me a nostalgic feeling, it also feels timeless. Sometimes, I am sad it wasn’t a single because I feel like it could be even bigger than “All the Small Things”, but I am also glad that I can dance around to this song by myself without it being corrupted by mainstream radio and TV-commercials. The tambourine is also present here.

5. “What’s My Age Again?”: Another song sung by Mark and the first single from the album. The music video had the band streak through the streets of Los Angeles. The song takes up one of pop punk’s most important theme. To get old, but not grow up, which traces back to the Descendents and their “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”. The feeling of immaturity and not wanting to grow up gets an even stronger effect with the naked video.

6. “Dysentery Gary”: Another of Tom’s “I’m really angry at girls” songs. However, the song deals more with the protagonist losing a girl to a guy he thinks is an asshole and tries to show in how many way he hates this guy, like calling him a pedophile, a fake heavy metal fan and a player who would just use the girl in question for sex and of course accusing him of having dysentery. The protagonist also admits his own and a lot of other men’s approaches to women, and that “I’ll shower you with lies”, which means, while criticizing the guy who got his girl, he might not be any better himself. In the end he gives up and calls someone’s mom a whore (whose mom, the girl or the guy or someone else is up for debate) and wants his dog again. This time it seems more like a reference to bestiality, which we’ll find later in songs like “Fuck a dog”.

7. “Adam’s Song”: The third single from the album. It was referred to as their serious song, and stands out as a different song that shows another side of the band. Mark’s lyrics deals with depression and suicide and has a lyrical reference to Julius Caesar’s veni, vidi, vici letter and Nirvana’s “Come as you are”; the latter obviously being a reference to suicide. Sadly, this is a song which has been used has the backing track to many teenage suicides and ironically the grammatical tense of the song changes from past to future tense and the lyrics become positive and shows that things will get better and suicide is not the answer. There is also a beautiful piano in the song that really gives one the feeling that this is serious blink. The music video that accompanies the song has the band playing in a warehouse and shows pictures of the band from their earlier years and childhood, which has a nostalgic touch that makes one feel a bit sad and happy at the same time, which are exactly the feelings the song conveys.

8. “All the Small Things”: As mentioned earlier, “All the Small Things” is the band’s biggest hit due to its catchiness and the video’s parody of artists like the Backstreet boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, N*sync and 98 degrees. The lyrics are very simplistic love lyrics and the melody is catchy and simple as well. The maybe most interesting thing about the song is that in the choruses that just go “nananananana” there’s a keyboard that once you hear it you cannot ignore it.

9. “The Party Song”: Contrary to the song’s title this is not a party song. It’s another song, this time from Mark, which borders on sexism. The song is about being invited to a party at a frat house, surrounded by shallow girls, moronic guys and date rapists and just wanting to go home and watch porn. The song promotes monogamy and that frat parties with girls with breast implants and without panties is not the way to find a serious relationship.

10. “Mutt”: The song which the band plays in the webcam episode of teen movie “American Pie”, the song is about a couple and their extraordinary sex-life, Tom sings the way they go on is “way too unhealthy, often they’ve typically been starved for attention before”. The song was also recorded in another version with earlier member Scott Raynor on drums for a surf video a while before.

11. “Wendy Clear”: Another Mark song about not getting the girl. The line “I wish it didn’t have to be so bad” is repeated throughout the song, both in the verses and the choruses. Like “Mutt”, “Wendy Clear” has one guitar playing a simple guitar riff and the second guitar playing something different so that the riff sounds more complex. The protagonist in the song wants to take a chance on a girl and take the risk of failing, using metaphors like playing with fire to break the ice and playing with a nuclear device. In the chorus he asks himself why he wants what he can’t get.

12. “Anthem”: When Enema of the State was released, Tom Delonge was 24 years old, however, his protagonist in “Anthem” yells that he wish his friends were 21 so they could buy him booze. The song is about growing up and being an outsider and being sick of parents and authority figures telling you what to do. For a kid hearing this song is the ultimate battle cry for rebellion, for an adult it’s kind of weird, but it’s a great song!

—————————————————————————————————————-

I think how much this album means to me shows how important the influence of what one listened to in their early adolescence is. And I would never be into bands like Screeching Weasel, The Queers, the Mr. T Experience and the Ramones if it wasn’t for Blink 182. And it’s my juvenile, biased voice that says: People who don’t like this album either have something stuck up their bowels or they are full of shit, and to be honest these are the people who really need an enema. The next one will be about Stiff Little Finger’s “Go for it”

Metropole will take a while to hit you, but when it does, it will be a straight-up sucker punch. Yes, this is a grower, rather unlike the instantly likeable Oh, Calcutta, now released a whole eight years ago. We have had an EP and a live DVD since then, but with Metropole, The Lawrence Arms are properly back. It feels different to before, but it is still distinctively them. The Lawrence Arms have never been a band to just breeze their way through an album, and so it proves with Metropole. This is an album which is lyrically poignant and textually rich, and thematically distinct, in much the same way as The Greatest Story Ever Told is.

Minus all that jazz, this has arguably some of The Lawrence Arms’ best songs to date. It might not quite match Greatest Story in the sum of its parts, or Oh, Calcutta for just straight-up punk rock hits, but Metropole showcases The Lawrence Arms at their most catchy, coherent and slick. Whereas on previous releases, the band’s LPs have noticeably juxtaposed Brendan Kelly’s songs, with his rough and raw vocals, with the more aesthetically pleasing vocals of Chris McCaughan, this time, the vocals are combined to a greater effect; it all feels a lot more together. It arguably leads to a slicker final piece, evidenced best in “Beautiful Things”, which has a hell of a chorus, and single “Seventeener (17th and 37th). Some of the songs on Metropole are the textbook definition of melodic punk rock. But The Larry Arms have never been afraid to try something different. “The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic” is a slow-paced, jangly jig, while title track “Metropole” tricks us with an almost-Sundowner-like acoustic  opening minute, before bursting into life.

And the theme of the album? Well, it’s about ageing, mortality and nostalgia; the 20 years that have passed since Brendan Kelly first started a band with Slapstick, as a 17-year old. It’s about that bastard known as time: “The traffic light blinked a million times/ I blinked twice and twenty years went by”. Lyrically, Metropole is Brendan’s one long “I’m getting oooooooold, guys”. This is obviously best found in “Seventeener (17th and 37th), where Kelly claims “I never wanted to die old/ But it’s too late now/ My Heart has grown so cold”. But the theme is embedded throughout, from self-explanatory “Never Fade Away”, to the excellent “The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic”, which is a Bukowski short story set to music, to the beautifully written “Paradise Shitty”. All of which culminates in “October Blood”, a bold statement from The Lawrence Arms, one which acts as a perfect summation of everything that has come before, and one which makes you to hear it all again immediately:  “I was born and I died/ And Just a moment went by”.

DB

Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRDtqR0sYaI

Brassneck Records is one of the finest punk rock distros in these lands. Based in Cardiff, over the past four years, Brassneck Records has been providing easier access (with much reduced postage costs) to LPs and 7”s from DIY punk rock labels that were probably only ever available before in Florida record shops, or online, with $30 postage costs. It is particularly brilliant if you are as big of a supporter of the mighty It’s Alive Records as I am, whose records are regularly stocked there. Brassneck Records has now started releasing (and co-releasing) its own releases, including an LP by a cool little French band called Chestnut Road. So, I asked Scott, the owner, what this Brassneck Records thing was all about.

You decided to set up Brassneck Records in 2010. What was your reasoning behind this?

There was no big plan to it really, no grand idea above and beyond selling records I loved to likeminded people.  Ever since I was a nerdy little kid I loved the idea of working in a record shop or running a record label, it just always really appealed to me.  I grew up in a pretty small town in Northern England so my exposure to decent independent vinyl stores was limited and, when I did get to visit them in Manchester they were really exciting to me and I built up a sort of naive romanticised ideal of how awesome life in a record store would be and how hanging out and talking music all day would be my dream job.  OK, so now as an adult looking back on it, it was kind of dumb but the passion for vinyl and for punk never left me.  More recently, the specific impetus for Brassneck was the fact that I was buying a fair number of records from overseas and, with international postage being what it is, I often ended up paying like 3 times the value of a record on postage alone.  I’m not a rich man and this meant I managed to buy very few of the records I needed.  There are plenty of great UK distros out there but I just felt the time was right to give it a shot and maybe try to stock some other records that weren’t readily available over here at the time.  So it was partly about keeping my own costs down when it came to my own collection but also offering what, to me, was a valuable service for any people who had a similar passion.  I kind of went in half cocked, not really knowing what I was doing or what to expect and part of me fully expected to fall on my arse.  I guess that somewhere in this big lumbering 38 year old punk there’s still a little nerdy teenage version of me that is over excited by record stores and talking about vinyl to the people who really give a damn about it.  So no, there was no grand plan in place, no amazing back story to it, I just wanted to do something positive for punk in the UK.  It was as simple and naive as that.

How did you find setting up Brassneck Records initially? Did you find any particular challenges?

I think the only real challenge in the early days was my not knowing what the hell I was doing.  I just knew I wanted to give it a shot so I emailed a bunch of people who ran labels I knew, asked how I could buy stuff wholesale and winged it from there.  Luckily everyone was really helpful and I made a few new friends and discovered a few new bands in the process.  After that, the next issue was seeing if anyone would buy anything and if people would even visit the store.  There were a few clumsy errors in the early days, a few expensive lessons learned but I really was lucky that I hit the mark more than I missed it.  Nearly 4 years in and I’m still learning.  I probably always will be.

You are based in Cardiff. From what I understand, South Wales/Cardiff has something of a thriving punk rock/ DIY scene. How has your location impacted upon Brassneck Records?

Yeah, the scene in Cardiff/South Wales is pretty good right now.  I haven’t lived here long enough to compare it to “the good old days” but I think most South Wales punks should be pretty pleased with the amount of activity that’s going on in the local area.  We’ve got more great local bands than I have the time to name here but check out Dividers, The Arteries, Grand Collapse, Pipedream, Not Since The Accident, Hipflask, Bad Sam, Bedford Falls, The Modern Farewell & Question The Mark as a starter. There are plenty more I forgot as well (sorry).  We also have some really good independent venues (particular mention to Le Pub in Newport) and a bunch of great guys who go out of their way to put on shows for touring bands (STHC Cardiff being a main player).  Cardiff is also home to the world’s longest running punk fanzine (Artcore) and we even have an actual physical punk record store in the form of Ghost Town Records right in the centre of the city.  And of course we’re just over the water from Bristol so we have access to another local scene less than an hour away.

From a label/distro perspective, I think that having all these things on my doorstep keeps me motivated to be an active part of something that’s important to me.  I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of local support and have a lot of good friends in the local scene that stop me becoming jaded or bored with it.  With the internet it’s easy to build relationships further afield and be part of something more global but there’s always something kind of special about playing a part in something close to home and the local bands, labels and promoters out there mean I’m as excited about what’s happening in South Wales as I ever have been.  Every time I go to a show or hang out with guys and talk about music I’m that same excited kid in the record stores of Manchester.

You were originally solely a punk rock distro, but have since began to release your own records, including an LP by Chestnut Road. How did this come about?

It was always part of the plan.  I didn’t actively think about it too much in the early days as I just didn’t have the cash.  Luckily, as the distro did a little better I was able to put a few quid aside to branch out.  At the start I was conscious that I wanted to release stuff by new bands or at least by bands who hadn’t released very much rather than go for the more established names.  The 2 bands I was looking at for the first release were Holiday and Chestnut Road.  I heard Chestnut Road’s demo via Bandcamp and heard Holiday after buying an LP from one of the band on Discogs and getting talking about music.  As time went on I spoke with Rich Speedowax about co-releasing a Chestnut Road 7” which then (with the help of the band and Aston at Boss Tuneage) turned into a full LP.  At the same time I was speaking to Adz & Matt from Holiday about helping distribute their demo on CD.  But before a CD was even made, it turned out that a bunch of other labels were keen to release that demo on vinyl so I jumped on board and the debut Brassneck release was born. So, along with the LP and a briefly delayed split 7” with Speedowax, I suddenly had 3 releases planned in the space of a couple of months.  It’s really just grown from there with another few 7”s and a tape under my belt.  There’s also the debut LP from The Caffiends just around the corner.

What does the future hold for Brassneck Records? Do you plan to continue to release more records yourself?

Yeah, absolutely.  I’ve put out 7 releases in 10 months the Caffiends LP is due by the 1 year mark in May.  Basically I plan to keep on releasing records for as long as it’s affordable and as long as people keep buying them.  I’ll keep running the distro alongside the label of course and I’m lucky to be in a position where I can do both and they pretty much sustain themselves without me having to lose too much money.

As for what else the future holds, I dunno.  It’s probably clear by now that I’m not business genius of the year.  I release and sell records I like.  I support bands I like and I take unplanned appealing opportunities where they crop up.  Whatever happens, I want Brassneck to be involved in punk in some way for as long as it can.  Quite how that will happen is as much my guess as it is yours but I’m quite happy doing my little thing here in Cardiff and, if people can get something out of it then it’s even better.

It is stated on your website that you only sell records you personally own yourself? Is this still the case?

Haha, I should probably update that.  That was definitely true at the beginning but, the increased amount of traffic over the years means I’ll sometimes sell things I don’t necessarily need for my own collection. That’s certainly the case for CDs.  I don’t really like the CD format and traditionally they sell poorly for me so I don’t stock many of them.  I guess I should rewrite that to read “I only sell records I like”.  I’m not going to sell records I don’t enjoy just to make a couple of quid, I’d rather stock a bunch of records I love that nobody else gives a damn about than sell music that doesn’t mean anything to me.  If I wanted to do that I’d just go work in HMV.

And as a follow-up question, do you get many requests from bands to have records stocked in your distro?

Yeah, all the time.  Bands and labels.  I replied to a couple of these emails just before speaking to you.  And even though money and good taste means I have to say “no” a lot, I do welcome it.  Sometimes you hear great new bands that way.  Sometimes you just hear another band that sound like a 5th rate Ramones rip off, but I’ll always try to reply to people who send me a message that’s directed to me and who seem to know a little of what Brassneck is about.  In these cases I try to listen to everything I’m sent. There’s also those situations where I’ve just been copied into a generic mailing list promoting a Bulgarian death metal band or something when the sender obviously knows nothing about what I’m doing or who he’s emailing.  Those guys don’t get responses any more than those Nigerian princes that have a million pounds waiting for me when I send them my bank details.  Legitimate punk bands and labels are always welcome though, I’ll always do my best to listen to everything that falls into that category.

During your time at the helm of Brassneck Records, what have you noticed about the punk rock scene in the UK? Do you think it is pretty strong right now?

I guess my answer about the scene in Cardiff can be related to this to some degree.  It’s easy for me to look back on the glory days of my youth and grumble about how it’s not as good as it used to be.  But it’s all relative.  If you look at the scene in any given year and there’ll always be someone who thinks it sucks and there’ll be those who think it’s better than ever.  I remember feeling less than positive about it in the mid 90s when every second band wanted to sound like Green Day.  And don’t get me wrong, I had plenty time for that band at that time but I was guilty of falling into the “punk was better 5 years ago” camp.  Although personally, I’m now very positive about how strong the DIY ethics are across the country and how many really good bands there are right now.  Excluding the Welsh bands I already mentioned, there are some amazing UK bands are out there like Bangers, Bear Trade, BUZZorHOWL, The Dauntless Elite, The Down & Outs, Epic Problem, Good Grief, Holiday, The Kimberly Steaks, The Murderburgers, The No Marks, Pacer, Paperjets, The Unreleasables, Zatopeks, etc, etc.  The list could go on forever.  So yeah, to answer your question, I honestly believe the UK punk scene is thriving.  Maybe not commercially but, in terms of underground DIY punk, we’re churning out as many quality bands as ever.

Final question: if there is one record you could recommend which is stocked in your distro right now, what would it be?

Just one record?  I mentioned earlier that I only sell records I like so that makes it kind of hard.  As such, I’ll just sidestep the question and go for the one I’m listening to at the moment which is “Goocher” by The Credentials.  It’s not a particularly new LP (released in 2011 I think) but I did just restock it and it has all the elements I love in an album.  It’s short, raw and dirty (in a Crimpshriney kind of way), it’s lyrically smart and …..in addition the title is an obscure reference to one of my favourite films from my youth.   Pretty much ticks all the boxes for me!

Thank you, Sir. Good luck in your future Brassneck-ing!

Thanks for the questions Dave and thanks for taking an interest in what I’m doing over here.  Good luck with the webzine.

Check it out: http://brassneckrecords.bigcartel.com/

DB

About Bloody Time cover art

Zatopeks are back! And yes, it is About Bloody Time. It has been a whole six years since their last LP, Damn Fool Music  and a whole eight years since their classic pop punk debut Ain’t Nobody Left But Us. The former felt a little bit of a let down, but that reflects more on the pure brilliance of the latter than anything particularly wrong with the former, in retrospect. After all, “Daily Mail” was perfect, while “25 ta Life” is as good as anything they have written. The main criticism with Damn Fool Music, was that they had lost the energy and youthful pace of the debut, but with About Bloody Time, everything is kicked up a gear once again. A few years on, and Zatopeks sounds as relevant and brilliant as ever. They do it best when they are indulging in nostalgic romanticism, as with “Romance of a Bus Stop in the Rain”.

Whether it’s the non-stop pace of “Neu-Isenberg” or the punk-y fist-pumper “Alert”, Zatopeks know how to make a catchy tune. We already knew this, but this re-affirms exactly what we had already suspected: that Zatopeks are the best punk band bar none in the UK right now. Probably for the last decade, in truth. As well as their standard, pop-punk hits, Zatopeks do still mix things up, although to a lesser extent, and to greater effect, than the previous record. The placing of the slower-paced, acoustic “Acetate” (including female vocals), in between the two most energetic songs on the album “Politics” and “Neu-Isenberg” works brilliantly. And it is also evident here more than ever how well-read Zatopeks are: their lyrics are scattered with various literary references, from Albert Camus to Catch 22 to Vladimir Mayakovsky, a Russian futurist writer. To make it clear, these are not just arbitrary references; the song lyrics are formed around these pieces of written work. Most obviously, “One Evening” is an adaptation of a poem by W.H. Auden, but it works best in “Politics”, when they base a song around an obscure German proverb: “Drink it up and fill your gut, but politics, Son, keep your trap shut”. The next time you hear pop-punk derided as dumb, kindly point them in the direction of About Bloody Time.

DB

Further Listening: http://zatopeks.bandcamp.com/

So this is the first post in “Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks”, a column that will take you back to the golden days of Pop punk. As Larry Livermore put it on the infamous PPMB: “René, who’s barely into his 20s, but more obsessed with old music and closed off to new music than even my 90 year old dad ever was.” So it should be obvious to everyone that this column will be a nostalgic trip down pop punk’s memory lane rather than a peak into its bright future! Each post I will present a classic pop punk or punk rock album and share some thoughts on each track. I’ve decided to start with Screeching weasel’s My b……. NAH, when someone writes a story on Screeching weasel it’s usually about My brain hurts, so instead I have chosen Wiggle, which is just as much a classic as My brain hurts.

Wiggle was released on January 15 1993 on Lookout records. The album cover is a drawing of a man wearing a suit and tie being electrocuted. This image is playful and childlike, but it’s also horrifying. This gives the listener a feeling of what to expect from the album. The album was the follow up to the previously mentioned My brain hurts, which was the pinnacle of the 90’s pop punk and could seem impossible to follow, but Ben Weasel and the gang did not disappoint! This was the only Weasel album with Johnny Personality on bass, and it probably has the best bass lines on any of the band’s efforts.

————————————————————————————————————————

1. “Hanging Around”: The album starts up with Hanging around, which has an intro that serves the purpose of both starting the song and the whole album, it’s not their most creative moment, but it brings us into the climax of the first verse where the song changes and becomes Screeching Weasel as we know them. The song describes one of the most fundamental themes of pop punk, getting older, but still going nowhere. Feeling religious beliefs have disappointed you, seeing your high school peers have successful careers and just seeing life passing you by.

2. “I’m Not in Love”: I usually describe this as my least favorite Screeching weasel song; I think it’s kind of pointless. That doesn’t mean I don’t dance around or bop my head to it, I also find the “hand in pants” line to be pretty funny. For some reason when I hear this song I’d rather listen to I wanna be a homosexual.

3. “One Step Beyond”: This song shares its title with Prince Buster’s Ska classic from the 60’s. The intro to the song is one of Weasel’s finest moments, and the song has a nice contrast in Ben Weasel’s snotty voice and the extremely catchy melody of the song. The song is a jab at the punk scene and its homogenous attitude, gossip and rules. It’s pointing out the hypocrisy of punk’s anarchic stands and open mindedness, when to an outsider it could be seen as just another social clique.

4. “I Was a High School Psychopath”: This is Danny Vapid’s song on the album. A Ramonesy look into an outsider’s mind. Contrary to the last song, this is a praise to being punk rock and  saying “fuck off” to the rest of the world, while wearing a leather jacket, ripped blue jeans and of course a Ramones t-shirt.

5. “Crying in my Beer”: This is maybe one of the band’s slowest songs and I feel like it shows another side of the band. This shows Mr. Personality’s skills on the bass and has my favorite bass line in any Screeching weasel song. The lyrics are also wonderful. The last lines of the song are “it’s pointless to wonder what life would be like with you and me
cause me minus you equals one little parasite less; I’m crying in my beer”. There is a certain bitterness and sadness in these lines that always gets to me.

6 “Slowmotion”: This song is co-written by Ben Weasel and Johnny Personality. It’s a good little punk rock song, that doesn’t necessarily have a higher purpose than being the bridge between “Crying in beer” and “Like a parasite”, which might have been too great to be right next to each other.

7. “Like a Parasite”: This song is co-written by Ben Weasel and Joe Queer from the Queers. And when it’s written by the two pioneers of 90’s pop punk it just can’t fail. The Queers did a version of it on their Punk rock confidential album and it’s nowhere near as perfect as this one. The lyric repeated a lot in the song is “Like a parasite, I wanna crawl all over you” which could creep you out and downright disgust you, but there’s also something strangely romantic to it. Mainstream love protagonists usually describe themselves and their loved one as beautiful things, such as bees and flowers and sunshine and whatever else clichéd metaphors they could find in their repertoire. The protagonist in this song however, describes themselves and their loved one as a germ or a virus, which there is also something beautiful about, but is not common in most love songs. What really makes the song is the lead in the intro; this song is pretty much perfect.

8. “Joanie Loves Johnny”: Another Ramonesy track! This is one of the songs in Screeching weasel’s series of songs about classic TV sitcoms gone wrong, along with Murder in the Brady house. This song is about Happy days, and the title is a reference to its spinoff: Joanie loves Chachi. Opposed to the idyllic 50’s nostalgia of the show, the characters in the song are on the “lude, getting tattoos, stripping, sniffin’ glue and doing heroin”.

9. “Second Floor East”:  This song functions as a turning point on the album, it starts up with a slow bass intro and goes into a fast punk rock song, the song itself is a standard screeching weasel song. The song is written in third person and the main protagonist is a girl. And unlike a lot of other Weasel songs with girl-protagonist, she isn’t mentioned by name, the song goes deeper into her brain and how she feels. It touches on themes of depression and loneliness and clinging to TV and entertainment for company. The song isn’t very positive, but she does have a dream that things will get better even if the dream is slipping away.

10. “Automatic Rejector”: Described by Mr. Weasel as “Girl gets revenge on boys” song at live shows, it is exactly that. It’s the song against creepy, sleazy dudes in bars. With lines like “he said “maybe we’ll see some action tonight from that bitch” but he was wrong” and “his hands and his mouth pulled the same kind of shit and when she pulled out her gun
she said “why don’t you suck on this’”

11. “Jeannie’s Got a Problem With Her Uterus”: Like “Joanie Loves Johnny” this song sounds almost like a nursery rhyme, with its childish melody and silly words. It’s definitely a song that goes way deeper though, and even if it’s not an exactly an educational journey through the female anatomy, it’s about a lady who cannot have a baby and the cost of trying to artificially get pregnant. I think the line “her husband’s sperm was studied and swiftly passed the test now Jeannie’s operation must commence artificial insemination can’t fertilize poor Jeannie’s rotten eggs” is great!

12. “Sad Little Girl”: This is one of my favorite Screeching weasel songs, maybe because it’s so different from the rest of their output, with its new wave guitar riff and dancy beat. The song takes us back to “Second floor east”, and while SFE followed us into the protagonist’s feelings and mind, this one could do the same, but could also be seen from an observer. The song is quite negative in spite of its catchy beat. The solution in the song is to just give up, stop thinking and just rip out your brain and sew your mouth up. This is horrifying advice to give someone, but it’s most likely seen from the girl’s own point of view after she’s given up.

13. “Ain’t Got No Sense”: A cover of Teenage head’s classic from 1978. A great song itself, but this cover, while not much different, is even better. The song sounds like a mix between the Sex pistols and the Ramones. And you cannot resist singing along with the chorus “I AIN’T GOT NO SENSE!”

14. “It’s All in My Head”: While the reissue on Asian man records from 2005 has four bonus tracks, which are all good songs, this really is the perfect end to the album. There are so many great elements in this song: the building up that goes into the guitar lead, the bitter, pessimistic lyrics and the melodic hook in the chorus. The lyrics are quite similar to the closer and title track of My brain hurts. The feeling of alienation, anxiety and even paranoia is present in the song. The protagonist is bitter and has a negative view of other people and the world in general. It has a Holden Caulfield-esque attitude that the world and the people in it are phony, but it also reminds the listener that the troubles or mental issues they are going through are all in their heads and that almost gives it a positive outlook.

————————————————————————————————————————

Because Screeching Weasel might be the most important band in 90’s pop punk or in pop punk in general, at least to me, it felt right that the first column would be about Wiggle. I don’t know if I’ve given it justice or went as much into it as I should since this is the first column! The next one will be about Blink 182’s Enema of the state.