Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #35: The Barracudas- Drop Out With…

Posted: March 5, 2018 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

What baffles me the most about this album is that is really shows the Barracudas as a coin with two sides. With the Beach Boys there were always some songs that were a bit sad and a lot of surfing, hot rod and love songs, or lots of super dark songs and a couple of light numbers in the mix. What Drop Out with the Barracudas has, however, is really special as it seems to be half-and-half songs that are downright depressing and songs about summer, love and surfing. The Barracudas managed lots of different genres. From Garage and Surf to Punk and Folk and Psychedelia, and let’s not forget Power Pop. They formed in 1979 in London with members from England, Canada and America. Singer Jeremy Gluck and guitarist Robin Wills have been the consistent members of the band. Their first single “I Want My Woody Back” b/w “Subway Surfin’”, was a throwback to the surf era of the 60s in the punk age and maybe more inspired by The Trashmen more than the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, but I also think the Ramones influence is quite clear. The second single was “Summer Fun” from DOWtB and it became their biggest hit and was backed with “Chevy Baby”. Disbanding for the first time in 1984, they put out a surprisingly huge amount of music. Outside of their other albums Mean Time (1983), Endavour to Persevere (1984) (these were only released in France for some reason) and several reunion albums, they also made a lot of live albums and B-sides and rarities albums. The first time I heard them was actually on LastFM radio of all things. I was kind of hooked instantly. I remember being super stoked when I found their rarities collection Two Sides of the Coin in Berlin in 2010 because I never thought I would ever own a Barracudas album.

In the UK, Drop Out with the Barracudas was released in February 1981 on Zonophone Records. According to Discogs it was released in 1980 in Australia (on EMI) and not until 1982 in the US (on Voxx Records). These are at least three versions that was released of the album and they all have different track lists. The Australian release have the same songs as the UK one, but in an entirely different order (more precisely: the A-side and B-side are switched), The American has the same order as the UK, but “Campus Tramp” has been replaced with “Surfers Are Back” (both these songs appear on the Australian version). The Australian and American versions also have the same album cover, whereas the UK one has an entirely different one. The two contrasting covers show the different sides of the album and it might give you an entirely different listening experience based on what version you listen to. The Australian/American versions have a Beach Boys-esque cover with the band carrying a big gun surfboard with smiles on their faces. The UK cover is the band looking super depressed in a staircase. The album title seems like it’s supposed have a double meaning. Both “dropping out”, as in dropping out of school and a mixture of the two surf expressions “drop in” and “wipe out”. The album was produced by John David, Kenny Laguna and Pat Moran. David Buckley played bass and Nick Turner played drums on the album.

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1. “I Can’t Pretend”: I’m going to go by the UK track list which starts with “I Can’t Pretend”. I would say this is a pretty straight-up 1980s pop-punk track. The lyrics are pretty sad. It’s about loving someone that just can’t take care of themselves, and you feel like you can no longer be there for them. It seems like the “I” person also has some problems they need to sort out and can’t deal with their lover’s issues. In the end, the song just seems filled with bitterness and it almost sounds heartless: “It doesn’t break my heart to see you cry”. The voice screaming “no” in the background is also pretty iconic. The Riverdales did a pretty cool cover of it on the “Back to You” 7 -inch.

2. “We’re Living in Violent Times”:  I would call this a straight-up pop song. The lyrics are sad and depressing and displays paranoia and fear in a violent age and I would say it’s just as relevant today, maybe even more, especially with the media being so widespread and in your face on a daily basis. The melody is beautiful, and this paranoia trip is accompanied with a wonderful and dreamy guitar riff. There’s a feeling of uncertainty in the song. The protagonist seems to be worried that they’re going insane. They refuse to leave the house, refuse to check the mailbox, refuse to watch the news, refuse to drive their new car and just wait until they can turn the lights off and go to bed. So I would say that there is a dual meaning of the song: it both shows that it is a violent and dangerous, but also that hiding away from it in fear of what may come happen only makes the fear stronger until the point where every everyday action is off the table. In the end, the protagonist comes to two conclusions: they are not insane, they are not imagining this danger, the early 80s really were violent times, but they also realize that they should happy to be alive and the fact that they survived these violent times is a good thing.

3. “Don’t Let Go”: In this Pub-Rock Power Pop track we get kind of a continuation of “I Can’t Pretend” This time the protagonist can’t pretend that they aren’t in love with the other person in the song and they aren’t able to hide their true feelings anymore. The only place they’d want to be is by their side. I feel like this is a reference to an older song, but I can’t figure out what song it is, I guess I just gotta let go.  Correction: The song is “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks.

4. “Codeine”: A cover of Canadian Singer-Songwriter Buffy Saint Marie. It’s quite a dark song about drug abuse. It’s about letting your parents down after they told you to be careful with the booze and realizing that you’re way further than that down in the shit. Janis Joplin also did a cover of the song. The Barracudas version reminds me a bit of The Animals’ version of “House of the Risin’ Sun”. Codeine is an opiate that is used to treat pain and diarrhea. In the 60s, there seemed to be a lot of drug problems with it. One of the most interesting aspects of the song is that the drug Codeine is pronounced “codeen”, but Saint Marie named it “Cod’ine” to make it rhyme, The Barracudas changed the spelling, but kept the pronunciation.

5. “This Ain’t My Time”: This garage-y punk song or maybe I should say punk-y garage song is another great one. It’s basically a lesson in what it feels like to go insane. There’s something 60s about it, and in a different way to the other songs that have a 60s feeling. I guess this song has been with me in the darkest of times and I love it for that. 

6. “I Saw My Death in a Dream Last Night”: Well when one expects fun and surf songs, this dark song certainly comes as a surprise. Musically it reminds me of later post-punk like The Smith or The Cure or even the Church. Even if it sound depressing there’s a certain catchiness to it. The song is pretty straightforward. It’s about seeing your death in a dream and waking up shaking and screaming. “I couldn’t remember the place or the time, but the name on the bullet was mine” is quite a disturbing image. Definitely one of the best and most haunting songs on the album. The chorus just repeats the title with a creepy keyboard in the background.

7. “Somewhere Outside”: I think I wrote about this in the After School Special article and related it to their song “Somewhere Inside”. Ben Weasel included Drop out with the Barracudas on his top 27 Pop Punk albums and deservingly so (it made #18). He described the band as Byrds-esque jangle-pop. He also said “there’s nothing else on the planet that sounds like this, and there probably never will be”. When he talks about Byrds influence I believe “Somewhere Outside” is the track he is talking about. There’s something very Byrds about the song. Probably my favorite song on the album. The bridge is fantastic. I love the line “Between today and yesterday”, which could be a reference to Alan Price’s album from 1974, but it also sounds like something the Byrds could’ve written. Some sweet harmonies in this song.

8. “Summer Fun”: The band’s biggest hit! Reaching #37 in the UK charts in 1980. The song starts up with an old ad for the car Plymouth fastback Barracuda from the mid-60s. The commercial shows someone unable to pronounce “barracuda”. The song is the exact opposite of songs like “This Ain’t My Time” and “I Saw My Death in a Dream Last Night”. The song is simply about having fun in the summer and getting a break from school. The Beach Boys influence is clear here and it’s a catchy little number, but it also lacks the substance that a lot of the other songs have. Still…Your Plymouth dealer is a dealin’ man….baba ra ra coo coo da da!

9. “His Last Summer”: This incredibly sad song manages to hold the album together. It’s about a surfer named Ricky dying in the waves. The song is an elegy or maybe a eulogy about his last summer and how his friends stop surfing and start drinking in the aftermath of his death. The song is also very cheery and surf-y, but there’s a very dark undertone to it, which shows both sides of the Barracudas on this album. There’s also a spoken bridge that’s similar to the one in “I Want My Woody Back”.  It was also included on one of my favorite comps Burning Sounds, a power-pop comp. The Barbecuties referenced the song in their song “Daytona Beach”.

10. “Somebody”: A more aggressive song about identity. It starts up “I tried so hard to be somebody I’m not/ First I gotta find out what I wanna be”. Now that I think about it, there’s something very Sham 69 about it. It could definitely have been on one of their first albums, and it probably would be the best song on there. There’s also something very dark in this song: “Trapped inside myself, trying to escape”.

11. “Campus Tramp”: Like “We’re Living in Violent Times”, “Campus Tramp” is pretty much a straight-up pop song or maybe I’d say a pop-punk song without the fuzz. Maybe we could simply say it’s power-pop. It certainly is pop-punk thematically. This guy is Sooooo in love with this girl who sends him letters, but she sleeps with the football players instead so he slut-shames her. Great tune though. My favorite part is probably when he sings about people at his school who “take me for a fool cuz I cry because of the campus tramp”. For some reason the guitar solo sounds a lot like “Sweet Insecurity” by Pansy Division.

11. “Surfers Are Back”: This is the 11th track on some of the issues. The song captures the spirit of surfers in London. They don’t have a scene for surfing, but they think surfing is outta sight, man. The song basically sounds like the Clash going surfin’. It’s really where Punk Rock meets Surf Pop. Thematically it’s very similar to “Subway Surfin’”. There are no oceans to surf, so we’re gonna surf in the middle of the city.

12. “On the Strip”: I believe this is about the Sunset Strip in LA and starts a little trilogy of California worship. There’s of course a reference to “Good Vibrations”. This song is pretty rock ‘n’ roll I might add. If you’re one of those motherfuckers with a driver’s license that keeps on polluting our environment with your fancy American cars from the 1950s and 60s, this is one of the songs you should be blasting from your groovy stereo.

13. “California Lament”: The California worship continues in a song that I might describe as a ballad. It starts like a slow piano song and then works it way up, but there’s still something very beautiful about the melody. It rains a lot in England, it seems. The Beach Boys falsettos also add to this California fantasy. Jeremy Gluck sings “I always wanted to see Californi-a”. The chorus just repeats “California”. What a magic trip!

14. “(I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again”: “In 65 it was hip to talk about the Sunset Strip”. This nostalgic song shows how popular culture can make you nostalgic about a place and time you never were a part of (not saying the Barracudas weren’t born in 1965, but you get my point). It starts up with a Phil Spector-esque intro and goes pop-punk pretty quick. The bubblegum songs like “Chewy Chewy” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy” were fun; neither were released in 1965, however. “Louie Louie”, which is also referenced in the song did exist at the time though. It also goes up in years from 65 and goes up to 69. A nice Pete Seeger/Byrds reference to in “Turn Turn Turn!”. The going up in numbers is also something the Beach Boys used to do a lot like in “When I Grow Up (to Be a Man). I think there might be a level of irony in the song, maybe it’s criticizing this mindless nostalgia for something you never were a part of. I don’t know. It finishes the album on a catchy note at least.

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A nice nostalgia trip back to the 60s..I mean 80s there! Next time we’re gonna go back to the 90s again, the safe place! With a Lagwagon album! I still haven’t decided which one!

 

 

 

 

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