Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #24: Teen Idols- Full Leather Jacket

Posted: August 22, 2015 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

Let’s drink some beer, put on our cowboy hats, and let’s discuss the country singers from Nashville, Tennessee! The Country music capital! Did I say Country singers? We’re going to talk about the Pop Punk band, Teen Idols! Even from the city of the Country Music Hall of Fame, where fiddles, pianos and Whiskey are our first associations, there’s still a band singing about porn and rejection! The band was started by guitarist Phillip Hill in 1992. Hill is one of the most interesting figures in Punk and has been a prominent poster on message boards and Facebook, only to mysteriously disappear and delete most of his posts He’s also played guitar or bass in bands like Screeching Weasel, the Queers, Even in Blackouts, the Independents and Jesse Michael’s Common Rider. He also played bass for Pop and Country legend Skeeter Davies (When he played in the Queers, they covered her “I Can’t Stay Mad at You” after her death, I mentioned my love for this song in the Queers article, I believe). Besides Hill, Teen Idols has had many other band members, they’ve had several lead singers, that not only sing almost identical to each other, but also sound quite similar to Hill himself. The band has exclusively had female bassists. Most known is Heather Tabor who was in the band the longest and on their most famous releases. The band is associated with their uniform, they all wear leather jackets with “TEEN IDOLS” on the back and buttons on the front. Their eponymous debut album was released on Honest Don’s Records, an sub-label of Fat Wreck Chords. It’s a catchy Pop Punk album, with really poppy harmonies, and includes songs like “Porno Shop”, “Let’s Make Noise” and “I’m Not the One”. Their sophomore full length Pucker Up, was a bit faster and less poppy, but also had some hits like “20 Below” and the title track. Full Leather Jacket is their third album and last on Honest Don’s, I think their best one, and it’s the 24th Pop Punk Pick. FLJ went in a poppier direction, as well as adding other influences. Their fourth and last album Nothing to Prove was released on Fueled by Ramen: here they went in an even poppier direction that fit the MTV Pop Punk climate in 2003. The band split in 2010, half a year after Hill was beat up in a fight and ended up in the hospital.

Full Leather Jacket was released on August 29th 2000 on Honest Don’s Records. The front cover is drawn and there’s a man in a Teen Idols Full leather jacket, It looks like Phillip Hill! And he has something behind his right ear, it looks like a joint, a cigarette or a pen. The title is a pun on Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam movie Full Metal Jacket. The Surf-band the Surfin’ Lungs released an album called Full Petal Jacket, that’s a pun on the same movie, which is a good record too! The lead singer on the album is Keith Witt, who quit before Nothing to Prove, only to come back in 2008. The album was produced by Mass Giorgini, who produced a lot of Screeching Weasel and Queers classics.
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1. “Midnight Picture Show”: Since in the 1950’s the phenomenon “Midnight movie” has been consisting of showing B-movies, low budget movies and cult movies at midnight. It started as a television thing, but in the 70’s it also spread to movie theaters. Even if there are instances of “Midnight picture shows” that stretch as far back as the 30’s. The first song on the album is, which is obvious because of the song title, about that! The song references Dracula, Jackie Chan and the “Mummy meets the invisible man”. Keith sings “It gives me thrills, when I get the chills from Sci-fi/horror night double bills”. The song starts with a sample from Bela Lugosi in the role of Dracula in the 1931 movie of the same name, Lugosi later got roles in a lot of Ed Wood’s infamous movies. The song seems to be very nostalgic, longing back to another age in time, with different heroes and art: “Stars of a bygone age/Come back to play one last time”. Something that is fitting to the band’s image, with their 50’s look and full leather jackets. The band made a music video for the song, where we also see the retro-romanticism; the microphones look like they are straight out of the fifties as well as the hairstyles. The video is in black and white, like the monster movies! And the band is sitting in the movie theater watching the midnight picture show! They are also playing a show, because they are a band, and they look like they have so much fun. Throwing popcorn results in the band getting thrown out by the movie manager.

2. “Every Day Is Saturday”: The second song on the album is a hella catchy one! This is mostly due to Heather and Phillip’s backup vocals and harmonies. The song still has a somewhat serious subject matter; prison! The song basically makes a mockery out of prison. The chorus goes “Every day is Saturday when you’re doing time”. The protagonist of the song is in jail for 25 for life, what are you saying now Masked intruder? For robbing a liquor store and beating his wife. He claims people won’t have to pity him, because prison is great! And all his friends are there and they’re saving a spot for the listener, I assume. In the bridge, it’s hard to tell who the “you” person is: “Wednesday’s visitation day/ But you’re never here
Don’t wanna see me? That’s O.K./ I don’t miss you like the beer” If the “you” person is his wife, it’s pretty understandable that she won’t come and visit him! This bridge pretty much paints the protagonist as a dickhead. I don’t know if there’s a serious message in the song, that prisons are too comfortable and prisoners treated too nicely, or if it’s just made for gags.

3. “Forever in My Dreams”: The subject matter on the album is quite diverse! First a song about movies, then a song about prisons! The third song is a bit more serious and it’s about the loss of a loved one. The song is probably Teen idols at their saddest, and the song is genuinely heartbreaking. The song is about someone who has lost their brother or a friend after years of arguments and not getting along. He stands petrified and looks at his brother’s car gets dragged out of the Laurel Lake, a lake in Kentucky. He feels guilty for what has happened. The chorus is simply beautiful, and beautifully simple:

“Your voice will never fade away
Forever in my dreams
I know you’re always gonna stay
Forever in my dreams
You’re always young, with wings to fly
Forever in my dreams
One place I know you’ll never die
Forever in my dreams”

In the second verse he drives to Roselawn; there’s a cemetery named Roselawn Cemetery in Bardwell, Kentucky, but I’m not sure if this is the graveyard that’s being referred to (there’s one in Minnesota as well) and he puts flowers on his brother’s grave. It’s uncertain if the two are brothers by blood (related) or if they at some point has been so close to each other that they see each other as brothers. The song describes how death makes petty arguments seem insignificant.

4. “King just for a Day”: After such a sad song, the least one could ask would be for a more light-hearted song, and “King just for a Day” definitely is, but it still continues in the same kind of melancholic manner. The song is, like the title suggest, about wanting to be king just for a day, to have a day where everything goes your way, and I guess this is something everyone can relate in one way or another. The song most describes how life is when you’re NOT king for a day. “I can’t face the world again/Go back to bed/When you start with nothing/There’s nothing that you can do/I just can’t get ahead” and “Carved in stone above my grave/King just for a day” are two standout lines in the song to me. The melody also gives the same vibes as “Forever in My Dreams”, poppy, melodic, but very downbeat to be Pop Punk songs.

5. “The Voice”: “The Voice” is a rather strange lyric, and it could be interpreted in several ways. One interpretation could be that the protagonist has a voice in his head that controls him to do crazy things like live as a bum and infiltrate the surroundings to discover lies and secrets, this interpretation would imply that the protagonist does suffer from schizophrenia or psychosis. The second interpretation could be that the voice is from a higher office or a higher power. That the protagonist is indeed being controlled by someone else to do work for them. There is no pay in this work, however. The third interpretation I have thought of is that the voice is, what Freud would call “the ego”(“Das Ich”), the part of our consciousness that relates to our surroundings and makes our minds adapt. Here, the voice, is something that tells the protagonist how to act in certain situations, rather than being an actual voice appearing in his head. I guess it could also be intuition. I see this interpretation as a comment on Punk Rock, and that the voice is making the protagonist adapt to the Punk Rock ethos and scene. The voice tells the protagonist to eat from a garbage can and live disguised as a bum and the protagonist follows. This could be a comment on conformity in the Punk scene. Musically, I think the song is reminiscent of Bad Religion. I also think there’s a Bad Religion reference in the song: Keith sings “My Speciality’s infiltration”, and Greg Graffin sings “Our specialty is infiltration” in “Part Two(The Numbers Game)”.

6. “Genuine Whiskey Man”: This is the drinking song on the album. There’s a chance this song is autobiographical, but who knows? The song is about a dude wakes up with a girl, and a bloody shirt and puke in his hair. The song is either an ode to drinking or about extreme alcoholism. I think the same feeling is being echoed in “Together Again” on Nothing to Prove. Here, there’s a prosopopoeial portrayal of alcohol, the booze is being personified as the long lost friend that the protagonist has been without for a while.

7. “Rebel Souls”: I, personally, think the seventh track: “Rebel Souls” is the best song on the album. It’s a lot slower than the rest of the songs and has more of a straight up “oldies pop” sound than the others, and has a great organ as well as contagious and nice vocal harmonies from Phil and Heather. The song tells the story of Jenny and Johnny, they are rebels, and apparently have rebel souls. Johnny is a teenage punk who drinks and gets in fights and rides a motorbike, a real James Dean/Marlon Brando character, and Jenny has a crush on him. In the end Jenny hears that Johnny has died and wants to run away. I think the story is very simple and bordering on cliché, but the way the story is told make me see it with my own eyes, Johnny with his full leather jacket and switchblade knife, Jenny running away crying when she hears her crush has been killed. It sounds to me like it’s straight out of an old-time movie, and it also echoes teenage tragedy oldies songs like “Leader of the Pack” and “Tell Laura I Love her”. The song is told in third person, but is mostly seen from Jenny’s point of view. This old-time feeling and nostalgia is emphasized in the chorus: “What happened to the heroes of yesterday/Where have they gone/Their vision’s too important to fade away/We’ll have to carry it on”. This also continue the nostalgia theme from “Midnight Picture Show”, the band continues to long for the heroes of yesterday and stars from a bygone age. In “Rebel Souls“ this is also shown in the music.

8. “Bandwagon”: Sometimes the band goes back to the whole Bad religion sound, which they do in “Bandwagon”. I think the lyrics are pretty clever, maybe not as clever as Bad religion, but what is? The song lyrics are to me similar to “Turning the Tide” from Nothing to Prove. The song is about punks being political and conforming to the same ideas, and the band is making a statement that they aren’t willing to join the bandwagon. In “Bandwagon”: “This bandwagon is full of hypocrites/And I’m not going along for the ride, and in “Turning the Tide”: “Don’t point your finger at the things I do/Because I’ll turn a different finger back to you”

9. “How Long”: Full Leather Jacket was the first Teen Idols album I ever got. I remember getting it for X-mas in 2009 along with some other cool stuff: The House boat record, A Steinways album, a Leftovers CD and the Queers and Atom age split! It was the finest present I got that year, and I remember listening to these records were my highlight of the X-mas. Full Leather Jacket was maybe the one that I enjoyed the most and most of the lyrics really affected me and I always found them to be very well written. “How Long” was a song that I never really got into the lyrics, I just got the “How long, How long” part stuck in my head. Reading the lyrics now I see that it’s maybe the most serious and awful lyrical content of the whole album. At first glance, it seems to be about domestic violence, a man who is beating up his spouse, but on further account it seems to be about a father physically abusing his son and telling him to not be an idiot and to be a man, while the son is growing up with scars wanting to kill him with a shot gun. This is some deep shit!

10. “West End Road”: Like “Midnight Picture Show” and “Rebel Souls”; “West End Road” also longs back to the past, but in a different way. The song’s protagonist looks back on a house he used to live in on West End Road. The lyric starts off with him talking about driving by the house. The house, the way it described, is what one could call a hovel. The city wants to tear it down because it only stands in the way. This is something that distresses the protagonist a lot, as to him the house has a meaning, it represents a part of his life that he never will get back, but the tearing down of the house is painful. He thinks his friends will just laugh and call him “the ol’ sentimental fool”, because they will never understand how much he loves that house. A great part of the song is how the second verse starts with “Seems like just the other day” while the chorus ends with “Since we fell apart at the seams”. Here the homophonic words “Seems” and Seams” rings at the same time and ends the chorus while it starts the second verse. Like “How Long” this is also one of the lyrics that really made me go “wow” re-reading them. In some aspects, it reminds me of Green day’s “Welcome to Paradise”: “Some call it slums/some call it nice”. What some see as a hovel is paradise to someone else because of the emotional attachment they have to it.

11. “Camera Shy”: Might be my favorite song on the album next to “Rebel Souls”! It’s just so catchy and honest. The lyrics are somewhere between brilliant, cute, romantic and really creepy. The protagonist sounds like a photographer, or possibly a voyeur. Contrary to Blink-182’s song called “Voyeur” is “Camera Shy” romanticizing voyeurism and you get sympathy with the protagonist, but at least in the Dude Ranch song “Voyeur”, you get a dose of humor and feel disgust with the character. In some ways it also reminds me of Catch 22’s “Kristina Doesn’t Know I Exist” The protagonist in “Camera Shy” says he is used to big rejection and that the girl he is taking pictures of is much too perfect for him. In the chorus, he admits that the infatuation is just a fantasy brought on by taking pictures of her. He is mostly aware that his dreams will never come true, but : “You never really know when worlds collide/It could create something special/Or maybe we would just all explode and die”. In the second verse he says “And you don’t know that I’m here, but you’re still my only topic”. The conclusion in the song is “I never really thought that you’d be mine, I guess I’m just too camera shy”. I feel like the song could be seen metaphorically, the same way I could see Screeching weasel’s “Supermarket Fantasy” as metaphorical. The protagonist has created a dream that the two of them will be together in pictures, but it will never come true as he is too camera shy, here the image of camera shyness represents shyness in general. In “Supermarket Fantasy” the protagonist wants to go shopping with a lady that is his fantasy and this is the same kind of dream and basically the same metaphor, and this time the protagonist can never share a shopping cart with his fantasy because he can’t get up the nerve.

12. “I Don’t Want Her”: The next song is the exact opposite. Here the protagonist is being followed by a lady who is into him, but he doesn’t want her at all, and he tries everything to avoid her and tries putting his arms around another lady just to have her leave him alone. The melody to the song is contagious and incredibly catchy. And though the subject matter is alien for a Pop Punk song (well, the Descendents exist, so I guess not) it’s as Pop Punk as it gets! It’s one of the songs on the album hardest to get out of your head.

13. “Coming Down”: Maybe the least interesting song on the album, lyrically, which to me says a lot about the album, as I do find these lyrics interesting. The best thing about the song is the piano intro, which gives a little sneak preview of what we were to expect from the next album Nothing to Prove. I think the song has a pretty cool rhyming scheme: ABABB((A)I’ll just pretend that you’re still with me/(B)To help me ease the pain/(A)I’ll still deny it until I’m fifty/(B)Or until I go insane /B)From a drug contorted brain)

14. “The Team”: The last song on the album seems to me like it is about the band and the band is the team. They aren’t just a band, they are a movement. And this sounds way too pretentious to be Teen Idols, but this is what they are saying! In this song we can hear Phil sing lead vocals, as well as Heather, and of course Keith, making it seem like they are a team! It’s an incredibly catchy song and ends this great album on a pretty much perfect note.
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So I enjoy this album a lot! And I think it’s one of the Pop Punk albums that definitely should get more attention. Maybe it’s cuz I am a sentimental fool and long back to the stars of bygone years and the heroes of yesterday and get nostalgic about the old days. So it’s time to put on your full leather jacket, get yourself a 50’s haircut and blast this album on full volume, you’ve deserved it Pop Punk fans! The next album up is “Goddamnit” by Alkaline trio: let’s worship Satan!

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