Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #11: The Shy Guys- Breaking Up is Hard To Do

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, The Shy Guys

In this column we are gonna approach one of pop punk’s hidden treasures. It’s time for Breaking Up is Hard To Do by The Shy Guys. They could have as easily taken their name from Super Mario as their own timidity. I think the first time I heard of The Shy Guys was because of the cover of Triple Bypass’s “Disney World” that they did on their “Go to Disney World” EP. The band features Chadd Derkins from Short attention, Chris Grivet from The Steinways, Triple Bypass and Panther Moderns. “Go to Disney world” is an outstanding Ep on its own, with songs like “I love You Today” and “Wake up, Break Up, Make Up” , but speaking of breaking up, this album, Breaking Up is Hard To Do, with the same title as the Neil Sedaka classic, is the classic pop punk pick this time!

Breaking Up is Hard to Do was released on Whoa oh records in 2005. The album cover has a Super Mario shy guy and the drawn band standing with their backs against the viewer, marking both sides of the shy guys that the band represents. The Shy Guys’ record covers are usually very comic book inspired, but comic books aren’t the only literature that these bookworms are inspired by. This album has almost as many literary references as the Mr. T Experience’s Our Bodies, Our Selves. The album is really ambitious, and sometimes perhaps a bit too ambitious because of the lengths of some of the tracks.


1. “Shy Guy Cheer”: The intro the album. A short punk rock number with a kickass bass line. The only words in the song are “Shy guys”. It’s not the most word-filled song, but it gives us a taste of what is yet to come.

2. “Jukebox”: This was the first song I heard on the album on myspace and I can’t really say it’s my favorite, but it does have instances of my new found favorite instrument, the tambourine. “This beer tastes just like water” and “Let’s have some more shots” are some of the lines of this little hit.

3. “J.D Salinger Wrote Holden Caulfield”: In the Kerplunk column I mentioned this song. It’s of course a reference to “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” and Screeching weasel’s “I Wrote Holden Caulfield” and Holden Caulfield from The catcher in the rye by J.D Salinger. Contrary to the Green day and Weasel songs, this song really focuses more on the Holden Caulfield character than the others. The Green day song has very little to do with the catcher in the rye at all, while the Weasel song is mostly about identification with literary characters and knowing you’re not alone. The Shy Guys song sort of says that you can’t really identify with literary characters, at least not to the point where you try to be them or feel like they do. Holden Caulfield uses words like “creep” and “phony” to describe the people around him oblivious to the fact that he is kind of creepy and definitely phony himself and that we probably all are. The song says to a person that feels like Holden that “that includes yourself, and me as well”. Later the protagonist in the song tries to be the catcher in the rye, which was what Holden dreamt of and catching kids that might have fallen astray. Ironically, the book itself has probably helped a huge amount of fuck ups find their way in life. The song, however, says that you can’t catch them all (which I always saw as a reference to Pokémon, continuing the Nintendo vs literary themes thing that the band has) and that you sometimes have to let them fall because you can’t really save other people if you’ve fucked it all up yourself. When I wrote my English literature bachelor’s thesis I wanted to write about these three songs and their themes related to The Catcher in the rye, but I didn’t. And no matter how dumb that would’ve been, it still would’ve been a better idea than the crap I ended up writing. Another punk rock reference to Catcher can be found in Dr. Frank Portman (of MTX)’s novel King dork. The song concludes with the sad realization that “no matter how lonely we all feel, Salinger wrote Holden Caulfield”.

4. “Make Sarah Smile”: One of the things that bothers me about punk rock and pop punk nowadays is that bands usually choose that they are gonna be either super poppy or super growly. What I liked about the Shy guys is that Chadd’s vocals have a punk rock edge and his voice is very easily recognizable, but the songs are catchy and poppy as hell, and this is a great pop song. The song is about a girl who wishes she had a friend in the whole world and when she smiles it’s one of the wonders of the world. Sometimes the lyrics can get really grandiose: like “let tears flow like wine”. I guess to see someone who is bummed out but happy is a wonderful feeling.

5. “Cloudy Vertigo”: A quite ambitious song, maybe a bit too ambitious for my taste and over five minutes long. I have no idea what the song is actually about, all that comes to mind is the Hitchcock classic, as well as the Simon & Garfunkel song “Cloudy”. It has a great guitar solo and a pretty good chorus. The song ends with a bass riff.

6. “Sonnet 130: A classic Shakespeare sonnet about a lady with bad breath. Like most sonnets it’s in iambic pentameter, which is a meter with five feet. This is a meter which is extremely hard to sing in a song and it definitely shows, but I definitely think this is the best song on the album. The song is slower than the rest of the album and has a more folky sound. The song has an organ and a mandolin and a tambourine as well. I think this melody really shows the potential of the Shy guys.

7. “Cougar Girl”: Another song that appears to be a bit too long, but this song has a chorus that makes it worth it. It’s also among one of my favorites on the album. I feel like this could’ve been a huge hit it if it was made by one of those MTV pop punk bands. The “Whoah oh oh oh”’s in the verses make the song perfect. The backs up vocals in the chorus are nice as well. The protagonist in the song claims a nuclear reactor is one of the cougar girls’ healing factors. The outro is also very sweet.

8. “Red City”: The album has many different styles of songs, a love song like “Sherlock Holmes” and a reflective song like “J.D Salinger Wrote Holden Caulfield”, “Red city” is kind of the party song on the album with lines like “we’re gonna be ourselves, fuck everyone”. It has a catchy chorus and it gives a feel good vibe, even if seems to be about going on a killing spree. “We’ll take this shitty town and totally paint it red, and we won’t come down till the day that we are dead”

9. “Sherlock Holmes”: Another song based on the great works of literature. The song’s protagonist is in love with a girl and after she kisses him he sees this as mystery he needs to solve like the great detective Sherlock Holmes. There’s even a signature quote from Dr. Watson in there “It’s elementary”. And there are female vocals in this song, which makes it an even better song, followed by a sweet guitar solo. “I’m searching for clues like Sherlock Holmes”

10. “North Dakota”: This is maybe the strangest song on the album, and it is also the shortest. It both starts and ends as a quick punk song, in the same vein as the Descendents and the rest is really slow with the same mandolin sound as “Sonnet 130” and a weird guitar solo.

11. “Times change”: The song is sung from the point of view of someone with a crude sense of humor: a sense of humor he refers to as pretty dry. And the song is him apologizing to someone whom he has hurt and that he doesn’t hate them. The song has a catchy chorus that has the Lillingtons way of just getting better and adding more great backing vocals by the end. It also contains the great lyrics “If you want me to be quiet, you’ll have to slit my throat”. I think it also has a keyboard part.


This is not an album that is often get classified as a classic pop punk album and is not mentioned with the likes of My brain hurts, Love songs for the retarded or even Death by television. And my crappy article isn’t gonna change that, but I think this is an album that should be recognized outside of the New York Steinways Unlovable short attention scene. Like the next album, that is huge even outside of the PPMB and New Jersey: Dorkrockcorkrod by the Ergs!


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