It’s been half a year since last column. I guess this is an article I’ve sort of dreaded article. Mostly because my arch enemy, Dan Ozzi (the jaded punk-hulk) over at Noisey, already wrote an article on this album (https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/westons-got-beat-up-turns-18-the-ultimate-high-school-album-is-finally-legal). I feel like he said most of what had to be said, but I still want to add something about this album, so I’ll do some comments on what Ozzi has written and share my own memories related to this album. Something that Ozzi focuses on a lot is the teenage high school theme of the album, that is impossible to deny that is there. Sometimes the lyrics border on sort of creepy or cringe-y. Which has always raised the question how old these guys were when they released it. They formed in 1990 (1991 according to Dave Weston), so if they were still teenagers or in high school in 1996, they must’ve been twelve or thirteen when they first started. They started as a five piece post hardcore band. They formed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and they are the only ones I can think of that are from the town of Bethlehem. They put out the 7’’ “Thursdaydown” in 1992, but on their debut album A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion they had turned into a pop punk band. The band was named after singer and guitarist Dave Weston’s parents, because they let the and practice in their basement. James Alex Snyder, now world famous for his band Beach Slang, joined the band on guitar in 1992. He also started taking more and more over as a vocalist in Weston as well. When bassist Jeff Saltern quit in 1996, he was replaced by Jesse Short. Chris Brenner from Digger was also in the band from 1990 to 1994. I would say Got Beat Up is even poppier than Teenage Rebellion. The next album Matinee: Music from the Soundtrack took the band into a more indie sound and their major label debut The Massed Albert Sounds continued in the indie rock genre even if they weren’t on an indie label anymore. Instead of making the band bigger and reaching new audiences, signing to a major label ended in the band’s break up.
I first became aware of Weston from the Pop Punk Message Bored (of course!). I remember going to the local second hand store where I would find records, CD’s and movies and even comic books when I was younger (it’s no longer around). I saw an album that had bunch of shoes on the album cover and some of the shoes were Chuck Taylors, I must admit that I bought this album just because of that. I was dumb in 2009, but it was still a wise choice. The album turned out to be What Else Could We Do? by Wax, an album that should get their own column! After buying it I realized someone had started a poll on the PPMB, who were the best band between Weston and Wax. I thought it was hilarious that I had bought that CD and didn’t notice that thread before that. Later, in September, I went to the local record fair and bought lots of ska CD’s and Honest Don’s Greatest Shits, the dude selling them recommended me Got Beat Up, and I had forgotten about the poll, but the band name Weston seemed familiar. I bought it and didn’t regret it! One of the ska albums I bought was The Allston Beat by The Allstonians, one of the greatest ska albums, both in the third-wave and ever. I also bought the first pressing of The Queers Grow up that day. Pretty great day! Also got to use a Wifi by using the password “bacon” and I really just tried it as a South Park reference! I was 19 at the time, but I still thought the lyrics on Got Beat Up were kind of silly even then. I really started loving the album when I left home and I loved coming back home and dance to it. Maybe to me it represented a return to youth, so in that regard it doesn’t matter how old the band members were when they made it or how old I was when I first heard it.
Got Beat Up was released in April 1996 on Go-Kart Records. The cover art is made by John Michael Jones. It shows two wrestlers in a match and one of them gets beat up. It was produced and engineered by Bob Acquaviva. On the vinyl version, it seems that the track list on the back is incorrect, but correct on the labels on the actual records. It seems the cassette version of the album has an entirely different order of songs, but this could also be a mistake. The lyrics also come in that order in the lyric sheet. The album got really good reviews in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll and got called “One of the only pop punk bands that matters”.
- “Retarded”: The first song on the album is probably the best known one. Maybe because people love singing words that they aren’t allowed to. It sure isn’t the best song on the album, but as an opener it’s a very strong one. I can’t imagine the album opening with another song. Even if the cassette version supposedly starts with “New Shirt”, Ozzi says it starts on a “wonky version of a B”. It’s kind of a riff played on the three lightest strings. The song is about the end of a relationship and the cancelation of an engagement. There’s even some French in the song. I believe the word “retarded” stems from French as well. The chorus is sung by the protagonist, I’m guessing it’s a dude, yelling out that the girl that dumped him is “so retarded” and that he must be retarded too, for not letting go. I’m not really anyone to speak here since my pseudonym is “Read Hard”. Dan Ozzi claims that people need to “remember that words are just things people make up” and that Weston sounds like a bunch of sock-hoppers from the 50s and that them saying “retarded” is like a toddler wearing a Hitler mustache. I don’t think it’s that simple, but yeah. Dave says it’s a love song and that the context is not mean-spirited and is more about being “slowed down” and being frustrated with relationship, but he didn’t mean that as an excuse for using the r-word. The counter-chorus also includes a section from a nursery rhyme about GI. Joe.
- “Me and René”: Everytime someone sings my name I go crazy. Having a strange and French name few songs have my name in it. The female version “Renée” got a few more songs: “Walk Away Renée”, originally by the Left Bank, also recorded by the Four Tops and Billy Bragg did a new spoken word version, that is probably the best spoken word songs ever. Got Milf did a song called “Renée Sucks”. The Weston song, however, uses the male version of the name “René”, even if he never actually sings it, though there is a song on Matinee where he sings “René”. René, even if spelled the masculine way, is James’ ex-girlfriend. The band claimed it was inspired by teen novels. The melody sounds a bit like Screeching Weasel’s version of “Surf Goddess”. I really love the back-up vocals in these songs, especially the ones sung by James. I actually have problems distinguishing Dave and Chuck from each other, even their back-up vocals. The song comes from the point of view of someone that sounds super jealous and possessive “I wish you’d let other guys know that I am the only one/ Cuz every time you start flirting it just ruins all my fun”
- “No Kind of Superstar”: Another one of those dork anthems. This song is about not being a superstar with supercool clothes, but rather being a D&D playing, bad sneakers wearing geek. Chuck sings this song, and again I couldn’t have separated his voice from Dave’s. The “baba”’s in the background are fantastic as well. He sings about waking up in his underwear on the bus. Weston were known for playing live shows in their underwear.
- “New Shirt”: This seemed to be the song that was supposed to be the first song on the album, but it must’ve been changed to “Retarded”. I can see why they’d want this as a first song, but then again nah. It’s a short Weezer-esque song about wearing a new shirt to school to make the girl you like fall in love with you. It’s basically the intro to “Heather Lewis”
- “Heather Lewis”: This incredibly catchy pop punk number is thee Weston moment. James and Dave did some talking on the incredible Long Gone Loser podcast and said that Heather Lewis is a real girl (https://longgoneloser.wordpress.com/tag/got-beat-up/). I don’t know if writing a song with someone’s real name in it is sort of creepy or a great tribute. There’s at least nothing libel-requiring in this song. Just a song about Heather leaving him and going to college and having fun at sorority parties without him. The Steinways did the same thing with the song “Carrie Goldberg” and that was way creepier. She went to college too and is now an attorney that fights revenge porn. Not sure if the song “Carrie Goldberg” is as harmful as revenge porn, but still! “Carrie Goldberg” also has a Weston reference. In the background, you can hear someone sing “just like Kurt”, which is a Weston song from Teenage Rebellion.
- “Your Summer Dresses Bore Me”: This song gave us a peak into the sound the band would morph into on the next album, Matinee. It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album and I like it more than any song on Matinee. The song is very indie-poppy and with nice little guitars in the background. The song is about being dumped and comforting yourself that everything about the girl that dumped you is boring, even, or especially her summer dresses.
- “Just Like You”: is the same title as a Brian Ferry song. However, the Brian Ferry song doesn’t start “It’s just like you to wanna hate me, but never take the time to date me” it doesn’t conclude with “I hope it’s fun to hurt me like you do”. A great little song there!
- “Teenage Love Affair”: The eight track “Teenage Love Affair” sounds like it’s straight out of a 50s movie. And according to Dan Ozzi the entire album is and I guess he is sort of right. This song in particular I would say though. Especially with its references to the jukebox and to soda shops. I would love to go to a soda shop! The song is about a guy seeing his girlfriend kissing another dude in front of the school and later sees them outside the soda shop and they didn’t even hold hands! In the end he finds out that she still likes him and goes back to him. A happy little love story right there!
- “Superbus 23” A song with few words, but sometimes a few words can say a lot. I guess I gotta imagine that this song is sung from the point of view of a young high school boy, if not it’s incredibly creepy. The song is about watching a girl on the school bus and the chorus goes “c’mon and touch me baby, we’ll talk about it later/You know I can’t find me another tenth grader”. Let’s skip to the next song, shall we?
- “Clumsy Shy”: I’ll always think of this album and the Wax album together. I don’t know if it’s because I bought them so close to each other, the PPMB thread or if there are many more similarities. But “Clumsy Shy” reminds me a lot of the song “All Over Again” from the Wax record. The intro guitar lead, especially. They are both great songs. The Weston song is about being a clumsy shy boy and still getting the girl. It’s a cute little track.
- “Varsity Sweater”: If there’s a song that’s really straight out of a dorky high school movie it’s “Varsity Sweater”. The song is about when the geek gets the cheerleader. She is really “the football Captain’s girl”, but she really flirts with the protagonist in the song, The song is also super catchy. In a just world, at least a just cheesy pop punk high school-world, if only the world was just that, this would a chart topper. I guess the song is more of a dream than a real affair, but it’s a great track. It’s also one the many songs on the album with reference’s to clothing articles as it is about a Varsity Sweater or a letterman jacket. “New Shirt” is about a new striped shirt, “Your summer Dresses Bore Me” is about dresses, “No Kind of Superstar” about underwear and “Running Stupid” references shoe goo, which I will get to when that time comes.
- “Got Beat Up”: The title track is also the shortest track on the album, clocking in at under 40 seconds. The song is about getting beat up and having to call your older brother. The person in the song gets beat up both on Friday and Saturday. The brother says that he should fight his own battles. The melody is similar to “Retarded”.
- “Running Stupid”: As I said earlier, “Running Stupid” references shoe goo, a repair product for shoes and roller skates. I have something similar for my shoes. The name shoe goo sounds very 90s, but the product was launched in the early 70s. The lyrics are a lot darker than the rest of the album and about “being full of holes”, the shoe goo is then a metaphor, it’s not only supposed to be used for your shoes, but for your “mental holes”. The song is also more “punk” than the rest of the album and it sounds lot like Bad Religion, especially the bridge. The lyrics are uplifting and the last chorus really lifts you up, “Remember when you said if I should need a friend it’s you”.
- “Heartbreak Sandwich”: The last song continues the same theme as “Heather Lewis”, being dumped because the lady is going to college. I wonder if Mark from Blink listened to this album a lot. “Heartbreak Sandwich” is a sappy and beautiful acoustic ballad, that sounds like a Replacements ballad, but with cheesier lyrics, if we’re thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich here. The second verse is something special, I can’t tell if the lyrics are the most cringeworthy and corny lyrics or wonderful, meaningful poetry. “I know I gave you a dirt sandwich, when you needed to cry and I wanted to kiss/ The picture we ended up painting were of a plate and a half-eaten sandwich/ Meaning we always took what we wanted and left the rest”. Dan Ozzi writes: “it sounds like something a C-student would turn in to a creative writing class. But goddamn if I don’t still get weepy hearing it”. The final line of the song is “I’m gonna let you go on with your life, while I trudge through mine”. These lyrics are heartbreakingly poetic to be a song about sandwiches. The listening experience of the album is complete. Started with the catchiness of “Retarded” and ended in acoustic heartache in “Heartbreak Sandwich”.
So, another article coming to an end. Listen to this album as much as you can folks! It’s almost a form of therapy. I will try to write a bit more often, but it still might take a while before next article. I couldn’t decide if the next album should be Less Talk, More Rock or How to Clean Everything by Propagandhi. So why not do both? I will try to compare the two.