Top Ten Songs: Teenage Bottlerocket

Posted: March 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

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To celebrate the release of Teenage Bottlerocket’s new album Stay Rad!, I decided to write up a top-ten list of the band’s songs that includes zero material from that record. Heh. It’s actually a decent record, but doesn’t contain anything top-ten worthy. You can see where my preference lies, with the vast majority of the songs on this list coming from the band’s first three releases. The positioning of these can be probably re-ordered, but I’m pretty sure these are my top ten…

  1. “TV Set” (Tales from Wyoming)

I think this song is the most recently released of the ten picks, which shows how highly I rate the last three TBR records. The new one is probably the higher quality and more consistent of the three, but none can come close to breaking the top ten. “TV Set” is on Tales from Wyoming, but it was released first on the Red Scare 10 year anniversary compilation. It stands out on TFW as a short, sweet and straightforward, harmony-driven pop-punk hit that is a throwback to the band’s earlier material. The underlying anti-technology suspicion on the track is very Lillingtons-esque, too.

  1. “Warning Device” (Warning Device)

Warning Device is for sure TBR’s most coherent and thematically-driven record and that is exemplified by the title track which serves as a one-two punch alongside the number one on this list. The album is essentially about coming through a break-up and regretting that you ever got together with the person, wishing that a ‘warning device’ of some kind could have warned you away all those years ago. Not a ‘new’ pop-punk theme in any way, but delivered in a refreshing and coherent way. The track has a fast-paced urgency and for one of the first times, TBR shift away from a standard Ramones-y verse-chorus-verse set-up. The pop-punk guitar solo is super fucking cool, too.

  1. “So Far Away” (Total)

The love-sick closer on Total. Making this list, I realise that TBR really knew how to close a record on the first three albums. “So Far Away” serves as a great epilogue on Total, releasing the pop-punk love-sickness that has been building on the rest of the record. It works well as this semi-melodramatic, (relatively) slowed-down mid-tempo tune, following on from faster-paced tracks like “Repeat Offender” and “Bloodbath at Burger King”. It is a super simple love song about dealing with long-distance, but I love the line, “how can I tell my heart that we’re a million miles apart?”. The repeated ‘so far away’ line at the crescendo of the song is so good.

  1. “Without You” (They Came From the Shadows)

There is an abundance of melody on “Without You”, one of my favourites from They Came From the Shadows. It has a wonderful sense of urgency and a heart-on-sleeve, melodramatic chorus; in many ways, I consider this to be a perfectly crafted pop song. “Without You” is a love sick pop-punker, but from a somewhat different perspective to that on “So Far Away”. On this one, the protagonist is longing for a significant other that has departed and is struggling to cope without them. Everything around them reminds them of the person. While Warning Device represented an anger at having fallen for that person, this track represents a simple sadness at the separation. The alternative version of “Without You” by Ray Rocket is also worth a listen!

  1. “Done With Love” (Freak Out)

By far, the standout on Freak Out. A Kody-penned tune, “Done With Love” is mid-tempo and super anthemic, with a hell of a chorus. The slower tempo really allows the vocals and lyrics the room to breathe. It’s great how much the ‘love’ in the chorus is elongated. For me, this track demonstrates TBR at the top of their songwriting game, in terms of melodies, song construction and lyrics. It sounds like it would fit in well on Warning Device, though the lyrical sentiments on “Done With Love” are in a slightly different place as that record. This is a very bitter song, with the protagonist having had enough of the game of love. They have ‘got shit to do’ and ‘no time to waste’ on any of that ‘bullshit’. As an ‘I’m out’, it’s very well delivered. Interestingly, I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the ‘no time to waste’ line makes me think of “Wasting Time” (read below); whereas previously, the protagonist couldn’t do anything but waste time on thinking about their significant other, now they have grown hardened and don’t waste time on it.

  1. “Social Life” (Warning Device)

A straight-up, fast-paced pop-punk ripper, clocking in at under 2 minutes. This was one of those on Warning Device that I loved straight away, whereas a bunch of the other tracks took a while to grow on me. As all the best pop-punk songs are, it’s simple (in hooks and lyrics), but really fucking effective. It’s about a guy not wanting to go out and see people and instead staying at home and listening to music. It’s really as simple as that! I love the last section of the song, when the chorus is repeated and the background ‘woah-ohs’ come in. It makes you want to pogo all around your living room, this one (on your own, of course). “Social Life” could have been as easily on Total, but I like how it fits in with the broader theme of ‘wasting time’ on Warning Device.

  1. “So Cool” (Total)

Another Kody song. I am super nostalgic about this track. I mean, all of Total, really, but particularly this one. It reminds me of doing stupid shit during the summer as a teenager and hanging out with a friend. It was also one of the first songs I got into from the mid-‘00s underground pop-punk scene and so kind of opened a floodgate for me. A fast-paced, intense and hook-filled punk track dedicated to the sheer joy of hanging out with a cool person. You get the sense that this is about the start of a relationship and everything blossoming, with the protagonist worried that the other person may leave eventually and pleading with not to (“cause if you do, I’m coming after you”). If you don’t like the back-up vocals towards the end of the song (“baby, baby, you’re so cool”), I dunno what to say.

  1. “Todayo” (They Came From the Shadows)

Like a classic Descendents or MTX track, this is an ode to everything going just right for once and pinching yourself: “Waking up next to me/ I hope you’ll always be”. There is an unbridled optimism and joy on “Todayo” that feels fragile and precarious. The themes of this track are not dissimilar to “So Cool”, I guess, although they are delivered in a somewhat different way. More than anything else TBR have done, it reminds me of mainstream pop-punk of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, at least in parts. It’s a really energetic, urgent and anthemic punk track that tops anything else on They Came From the Shadows. I wish TBR had evolved more in the direction of “Todayo” or “Done With Love”, which stuck to the band’s roots but evidence a shift away from a simple pop-punk formula, instead of going down the ‘rawk’ route.

  1. “Bloodbath at Burger King” (Total)

Oh my, those opening guitar leads still get me every time. It’s essentially a straightforward pop-punk track about hating your job, but that guitar lead elevates it to a few notches above. I love the outro “blood on the register, the grill, and on the floor”, with the back-up vocals “bloodbath at burger king” coming in. I know there have been a ton of pop-punk songs written about hating one’s job, but this one is so visceral and really captures the intense feelings about working in the service industry and the blood that it makes you want to shed. At the time when I first heard this track, I was working in a fast-food joint (in a bowling alley) and I don’t think I have ever related to a song so much in my life! I remember walking around doing tasks at work, singing under my breath, “…blood on the fryer and the walk-in cooler door…”. Good times!

  1. “Wasting Time” (Warning Device)

It is often hard to say what is your favourite song from a band, but this is as close as I will get to a favourite TBR song, I think. “Wasting Time” is a mid-tempo, emotive and hook-filled pop-punk banger that forms part of an effective one-two combo with “Warning Device”. It makes for a great ending to the record. I can think of few pop-punk records that end on such a high note. I love the way the melody subtly shifts for the chorus: “And now the murdering of minutes is my only crime”. It’s a song that fits in neatly with “Warning Device” and the rest of the record: about fixating on a significant other that has left and not being to think of anything else. I think these are among TBR’s best lyrics!

Check out the latest record here: https://teenagebottlerocket.bandcamp.com/

DB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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