Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks: Screeching Weasel- Wiggle

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

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.

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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.

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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.

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