Read Hard’s Pop Punk Picks #20: Beatnik Termites- Bubblecore

Posted: March 9, 2015 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

I first heard of Beatnik Termites in 2007. I like the band name, it’s mixing the 50’s/60’s rebellion of the Beat poet movement and the parasitic goofiness of 90’s pop punk (see the Parasites and so on). Sonically, they are a mix of these decades, but don’t resemble most of the beatnik ideals, except maybe the need to be offensive every once in a while, but they seem more inspired by the 60’s beat music movement, as well as surf music from the same era. Pat Kim (Also known as Pat Termite) started the band in Cleveland, Ohio in 1987 and he has had many different bassists and drummers in the band. I think their best effort is their first one, their eponymous EP from 1989. The EP is sweet, sugary and wistful. Pat’s voice is sweet and innocent and sings songs about his sand castle not standing the next day (“Sand Castles”), having to let go of a crush that is in love with someone else (“Strawberry Girl”), Charlie Brown getting a Valentine (“Charlie Brown gets a Valentine”) and the Monkees-esque song about familiar faces in your town (“Faces”).

My favorite song of the band is probably “How Many Times” that appeared on the comp Ben Weasel presents Punk rock USA from 1995. They have put out several other releases like Taste the Sand, Girl crazy! They also followed Screeching weasel, The Vindictives, The Queers, MTX and Boris the Sprinkler in covering a Ramones album in its entirety and recorded Pleasant Dreams. Along with the Boris the Sprinkler’s End of the Century, it’s one of the underrated albums in the series; what’s more, I think Pleasant Dreams is an underrated album in itself. The album I’m going to talk about is Bubblecore, which is maybe their most aggressive release and introduced a new type of singing in addition to his cute, juvenile voice: what I like to call the “Eric Cartman singing” or “Bart Simpson with a throat cancer singing”. This singing has later been used by other pop punk singers like Brandon Dung and Bill Mcrackin. The commerce of these voices is perfect for the soundtrack to 30+ singing about high school and throwing teenage tantrums. Pat also played bass on the album. The bass lines are maybe my favorite part of it. Beatnik Termites were apparently a favorite band of Kurt Cobain, according to his post-mortem released diary. Taste the Sand (their first album) came out in 1995, a year after Cobain died, so he never got to hear it, let alone Bubblecore.

Bubblecore was recorded in 1996 and released the same on Recess Records. It was later re-released on Insubordination records. The album cover is yellow with “Beatnik Termites” in red in all caps and “Bubblecore” in a blue with a ™ after it, both referencing Termites and Trademark. Below there’s a girl blowing a bubble out bubblegum with the band inside the bubble. The cover is drawn like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon or Archie comics, which is suitable to their childlike, bubblegum image.

1. “I Don’t Wanna Hang Around”: A snotty song with snotty lyrics! Continuing in the vein of the Ramones and their “I wanna/don’t wanna” songs. This is one of the negative ones like “I don’t wanna walk around with you” or “I don’t want you” or The Queers’ “I don’t want you hanging around”. The music also sounds like the Ramones with its “oh yeahs” and minimalist lyrics. The best line is maybe “I see you found your niche/You snotty, superficial bitch”. The song always struck me as a fan favorite!

2. “You’re All Talk”: This song continues the Ramones-style and sounds inspired by “Beat on the Brat”. It’s also similar lyrically. This time the protagonist is mad that someone, possibly a girlfriend, is all talk and not showing up to their dates. The person doesn’t even show up when the protagonist has put them on a guest list. “I could have sold your ticket and it makes me really pissed”. The protagonist also accuses the antagonist of having mental problems “I think you need a shrink”, something that is also similar to “I don’t want you hanging around” (“Clinically depressed, you’re just one pathetic mess”). This song is, however, a lot catchier than “I don’t want you hanging around” and has an even angrier conclusion :“As far as I’m concerned, baby you can go to hell!”

3. “A Girl I Know”: A much happier song. It has a really awesome bass line that basically makes the whole song a whole lot better. And the song takes us back to the cuter days of their self-titled EP. The song is about infatuation and about someone being so much in love with a girl that he can smell her perfume even before she’s in the room. There’s something honest about the song and describes the feeling of new love perfectly. And did I mention that bass line?

4. “Shit, Fuck”: In this 21 seconds long track, the singer (I don’t think it’s Pat) yells “shit” and “fuck” a shit load of times! It’s probably the most “Punk” song on the album.

5 “I Don’t Wanna Be Bad”: This song sounds like Pat wanting to be Dee Dee Ramone, and it’s inspired by songs like “Wart Hog”, “Endless Vacation” and “Love Kills”. Like “Shit, Fuck” it just seems like someone throwing out random obscenities. And seems to apologize in the chorus singing “I don’t wanna be bad, but I can’t help feeling mad”. This could be a reference to “Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy”. The protagonist could maybe suffer from Tourette’s syndrome.

6. “Skateboard”: In case you forget, this album is from the 90’s. Not only is this song about skateboarding, but there’s also in this song “a new song by the Ramones” and that’s kind of hard to imagine, but this was around the time when they split up and released Adios amigos!. The song describes someone who claims to be ugly, but doesn’t want to be a “teen heartthrob” and seems to hate their job and just wants to get on their board and skate around. This skater doesn’t want to go to parties cuz people there are mean! It seems like in the 90’s, and probably still, skateboarding seemed to be a way to get away from your problems. Skateboarding was edgy, skateboarding was rad, skateboarding was punk! And an escape from parents, school and work and everything getting you down. You could say the same thing about surfing, and the lyrics are quite similar to Weezer’s “Surf Wax America” in that regard. The song references Thrasher, the legendary skateboarding magazine and JFA (Jody Foster’s army), an 80’s skate punk/Hardcore band. And FYI: both these were founded in 1981! Sk8 and destroy, maan !

7. “You’re the Only One”: The seventh track of the album “You’re the Only One” is a punk rock inspired classic pop song. Mixing the harmonies of the beach boys with the melody of doo-wop and the lyrics of “Phil Spector girl groups” and some sweet handclaps. The bridge goes “When I look into your eyes it’s me you apprehend/all I ever wanted was to be more than your friend” The band made a black and white music video to accompany the song, and the punk rock image of the band seems sort of out of place with the content of the song, but when it’s the Beatnik termites, it works! And to me that doubleness is what makes me love the video and the song! Should’ve been a hit in a perfect world!

8. “You Make Me Sick”: Another of the “I’m really fucking pissed at you” songs, and this time he really seems to mean it. Not only that, but in the background of the adult “hating you” teenage tantrum throwing there’s backup vocals that sound like they’re straight out of Grease! And it’s catchy as fuck! And it probably has the meanest order to give someone “Go shoot yourself 20 times in the head/Cuz I think that you’ll be happier when you’re dead”. The bridge goes “You say I don’t show enough affection/but you don’t even give me an erection”. The lyrics sounds like they could’ve been straight out of a TV-show called “Insult your Significant other”, if such a show existed.

9. “Circles”: I feel like this song takes us back to the cuteness of “A Girl I Know”, this song actually also appeared on their first EP and it has the second best bass line on the album. Like the bass line on “A Girl I Know”, it’s simple, but it really fits the song. The song is about a girl who always dances by herself, “In her little world I can tell”, the protagonist as well as other weirdos want to dance with this lady, but neither the protagonist or the others dares to ask her; later she looks away and the protagonist knows he has lost his chance. The girl in the song will to the protagonist only be a fantasy, in “Daydream land” or “a little wonder land”. It’s like of like in the movie Angus where Angus really likes Melissa, but he doesn’t really get to know anything about her until the school dance other than his own phantasm of her. The chorus of the song is, to me, pretty much perfect and I think the whole song goes in the category “perfect pop punk song”. There’s been so many times since the first time I heard it that I’ve listened to this song and just bounced up and down on the floor and getting lost in the song. I think the Bubblecore version is better than the original.

10. “Eddie’s Got a New Zit”: One of the sillier songs on the album. When you’re in a pop punk band you can write songs like this! And that’s why I love pop punk! And why so many other dweebs are embarrassed by it. The song is about someone named Eddie who has lots of zits, but the girls like him anyway! Now he’s trying to shave and, guess what? He’s got a new zit again!

11. “Can’t Pretend”: This songs shares its name (basically) with The Barracudas’ hit from their Drop out with the Barracudas (that will get their own article one day!) The song is about the protagonist trying to think about a girl or be in love with her, but he just can’t! He can’t even pretend that he doesn’t have feelings for her.

12. “Jailbreak”: This song also has a classic song title shared with many bands, most famously being Thin Lizzy. The song is about a dude wanting to escape from prison because he doesn’t want to be someone’s “bitch” in the shower. So not exactly the Thin Lizzy song.

13. “Beach Girl”: I don’t know if it’s just me, but “Beach girl” reminds of Tacocat’s “Crimson Wave”. I get the same feeling when I listen to the song. The subject matter is obviously different, even they’re both about girls surfin’ waves. “Beach Girl” is about being in love with a surfer girl, much like “Surfer Girl” and “Surf Goddess” and also fits more into the Beach Boys end of the ‘Termites spectrum. They are also mentioned in the song along with the Ramones. Like in “Circles” the character never really gets to be with his crush: “Only in my dreams can I ever be with you/I can only hope that my dreams will come true” I remember listening to this song in the University cafeteria when I was standing in line for food and it made my day a little better. I guess outside of unrequited love part of the song, the song could also be seen as incredibly creepy coming from older men: “You’re the raddest in my school”.

14 “Don’t Tell Me”: This song is about finding out about a crush having a new boyfriend. The protagonist clearly would’ve wished to remain ignorant on the subject, maybe so the fantasy about the crush could still continue, but the news of the boyfriend is devastating and the protagonist asks, “What can I do?” That’s the unrequited love angle that we’ve seen in the rest of the album, the song could also be seen from an ex, the protagonist being bummed out that their ex has found a new love without them and moved on and they aren’t able to do that themselves.
I think this album will always get you in a good mood, from the silly songs, to the angry “throwing tantrum” songs to the sweet and innocent, surf-y love songs. I definitely think the Termites should get more love than they currently do! The next album is I Don’t Wanna Grow Up by the Descendents!


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