The Murderburgers recently announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus (boohoo, I know) at the end of the year, so I thought this was an apt time to take a retrospective lookback at the material that band has amassed. Since the release of How to Ruin Your Life, The Murderburgers have been remarkably consistent, more so than any other pop-punk band that I can think of. The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People is probably one of my favourite records of all time. Below are what I think are The Murderburgers ten best songs, which was pretty fucking hard to do. I easily could have done a top 20 here. There’s no ranking or anything, because I’m lazy and don’t know where I would begin with that; the tracks are simply listed chronologically. It’s Burger time!
“My Head is Fucked Again” (How to Ruin Your Life, 2012)
How could this not be in the list? A Goddamn Murderburgers classic. I think the first time I heard The Murderburgers was this and “Unemployment, Here I Come”. “My Head is Fucked Again” represents instant pop-punk gratification, with its earworm, driving melodies and Queers-esque concise sing-a-long chorus. It’s got a kind of early Teenage Bottlerocket feel to it as well, especially with the way the verse flows into the chorus. As you might expect from the title, it’s a straightforward and cathartic release of emotions on losing your mind, being haunted by past events and over-analysing shit, which are recurring themes of the ‘Burgers work, but “My Head is Fucked Again” was a setting down of the marker.
“I Don’t Live Well” (How to Ruin Your Life, 2012)
I’m glad I got to see The Murderburgers live in this period- in some basement of a bar in Montpellier- as it meant that I could dance around to one of my favourite pop-punk guitar melodies of all time on “I Don’t Live Well”. The track is very Lookout! era pop-punk, notably in the vein of The Queers, from the title to the simple and catchy chorus and the lyrics about dreaming of drinking beer and listening to the Ramones with a significant other, but instead waking up alone and late for work. I dare you to not want to tap your toes to that chorus though; pure fucking infectiousness. After numerous proclamations of “I Don’t Live Well” in the chorus, the song ends perfectly, with a closing sneer of “…but it’s not as if I ever really did before”.
“Another Way out of Here” (These Are Only Problems, 2013)
Probably their best song at the time it came out, “Another Way out of Here” is a self-deprecating pop-punk anthem if I ever heard one, with Fraser singing about being “an ugly piece of shit with a fucked-up face and broken teeth” and a memorable, melodically smart chorus of “So you want nothing to do with me/Understandably”. I don’t think that the closing line, “I’m just trying to find a way out that doesn’t involve tying a noose and kicking a chair” will ever not be a gut-punch, no matter how many times I hear it. While I had enjoyed their earlier stuff, “Another Way Out of Here” was really the Murderburgers track that made me sit up and pay attention; it remains immensely meaningful to me today and is a rightful closing staple of Murderburgers’ live sets.
“All My Best Friends are Dying” (These Are Only Problems, 2013)
This album was the beginning of the point at which The Murderburgers shifted away from their straight-forward Ramones-y pop-punk sound. I mean, it’s still pop-punk of course, but they began to play around with the tempos and songwriting structures a little, while the lyrics had become smarter and more cutting. “All My Best Friends are Dying” is a great example of the expansion of the ‘Burgers sound, with its explosive chorus that begs to be sung along to in a sweaty basement with a bunch of friends. A super-relatable track about wanting to help out friends with their mental health challenges while struggling yourself, a topic that Fraser would later revisit in “The Waves”. One of the early lines in the song always gets me: “Snap back a few years ago, we had loads of fuckin’ time/ All of our omens seemed benign, now all we see is warning signs”
“Christine, I Forgive You” (These Are Only Problems, 2013)
Definitely the most emotionally mature and earnest song that Fraser had written at this point; for me, “Christine, I Forgive You” remains one of the band’s strongest songs. Upon declaring that he is “pretty drunk right now” but “can hold a pen”, Fraser uses this song as a confessional vehicle of sorts. Despite making him stand out in the rain, hoping that he would see her car coming over the hill again, Christine is ultimately resolved of blame and forgiven. “Christine, I Forgive You” is a touching and tragic mid-tempo melodic punk song that feels like a watershed moment for the band. Oh, and that opening guitar lead, fucking hell…
“I Used to Hate That Life” (The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, 2016)
Showcasing superior songwriting chops off what I think, upon reflection, is the ‘Burgers best LP, “I Used to Hate That Life” is full of some great key shifts and memorable sing-a-long moments. The Murderburgers had developed a fuller sound on The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, aided by the backing vocals of Adam from the Copyrights and Zack from Dear Landlord. I love the way that this song slowly builds in intensity and volume, before culminating in everyone singing at once, “Then turn the TV on, set the volume to 6 then turn and face the wall/ And pretend that none of this bothers me at all”. Linking right back to the themes of “My Head is Fucked Again”, this track is about struggling to escape, and being haunted by, past demons.
“The Waves” (The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, 2016)
When the video for “The Waves” was released in the summer of 2016, I remember vividly listening to it incessantly for a few days while on a trip to Oslo. Something about it really captivated me. While retaining Fraser’s trademark songwriting style, it sounded closer to a Dear Landlord or Copyrights track than the Lookout!-style pop-punk of the ‘Burgers youth. As with most of the record, “The Waves” felt like a more measured and beefed-up version of the band’s former selves. The songwriting was more poetic and in some senses more grandiose than previously: “All I’m seeing is the ones that I love/Struggling to keep their heads above/The waves that would drown me every time/If they weren’t there to pull me out”. Iconically, the track ends with the great sing-a-long of “Dear Christ, to be born for this!”, quoting a poem by Edwin Morgan. An anthem, if I ever heard one.
“I’m Sorry About Xmas Eve” (What a Mess, 2019)
A straightforward sad-sack pop-punk track that is this album’s ‘instant hit’ in the same way that “The Waves” was on the previous record. It is intense and infectious in equal measures and shows off the evolution in Fraser’s songwriting over the years. A deeply personal and cathartic track that is tightly and effectively written and essentially functions as a resolution (“I don’t want to stumble through life shitfaced anymore”). I don’t know if a line has better summarised pop-punk miserabilia as “The only times I was thankful for double vision/ Was when it meant that I saw more of you”. Just perfect.
“Shots in My Skull” (What a Mess, 2019)
“Shots in my Skull” has a somewhat different feel to it than most Murderburgers material, as a mid-tempo melodic track that is spacious and shows more restraint than previously heard. In some ways, it comes off a bit like a mid-‘90s NOFX track or perhaps a bummer Methadones effort. On What a Mess, The Murderburgers evidence greater range and dynamism, as the band edged a little further away from the rigid structures of archetypal pop-punk. Alongside the lovely guitar work, there are some memorable lines on “Shots in My Skull”. Equating wind with bricks and rain with knives effectively puts you in a certain frame of mind, while the song closes with one of my favourite pop-punk couplets of all time: “Well, there’s always hope/ Be it false or not”
“Dying on an Empty Stomach” (What a Mess, 2019)
The highlight of What a Mess for me; a truly distinct Murderburgers track that makes use of stark vocal melodies over fairly straightforward, driving punk rock sonics, in a similar way to The Creeps. The range of vocals here is something unheard before on a ‘Burgers song. “Dying on an Empty Stomach” reminds me a little of a latter-day Weasel, especially with the three-part song structure and lyrics making use of seasonal metaphors. Lyrics on this one are as violent, intense and visceral as Fraser has ever written, ensuring that it’s a captivating but uncomfortable listen: “Now my stomach’s always empty, and my days are always full/Of wondering if a ceiling light would be strong enough/ And hoping that I can’t hold my breath long enough”.
Special mentions to:
“I’ll Always be a Bottom Feeder” (Semi-Erect, Semi-Retarded, Semi-Detached, 2009)- I wasn’t ever going to include anything pre-How to Ruin Your Life, but this is the pick of the early material.
“Self Esteem” (AJJ Cover on ‘Asian Man Music for Asian Man People Vol. 2, 2016)- Remains one of my favourite punk covers of all time.
“7 Months” (‘Shitty People and Toothache’ EP, 2019)- On the edge of being included, but couldn’t ultimately find room for it.