Archive for the ‘Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks’ Category

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It’s been half a year since the last Pop Punk Pick and I am sorry for the anticipation I have put on this one! I’ve decided to do something special. This time there’s not just one album; there are two! I figured Propagandhi is one of those bands that have two very good albums, so why not write about both? And compare them? This will be fun, people! Propagandhi was formed as early as 1986 in Winnipeg. Jord Samolesky and Chris Hannah started the band and recruited bassist Scott Hopper, who was replaced by Mike Braumeister, who was replaced by John Samson, a young musician and poet. Braumeister moved to Vancouver. They were a political band right from the get-go, but in the early days they referred to themselves as a progressive thrash band rather than the skate punk band they turned into in the early 90s. They put out three demos; We Don’t Get Paid, We Don’t Get Laid, But Boy Are We Lazy, Fuck the Scene and Martial Law with a Cherry on Top, before signing to a label. In 1992, they played a gig with NOFX (or Fat Mike just went and saw them, there are different stories) at the Royal Albert in Winnipeg and played a Cheap Trick cover. I’ve read about it being both “Surrender” and “I Want You to Want Me”, and I’m not sure what song is the correct one, but Fat Mike loved the cover and their harmonies so he signed them to his newly started Fat Wreck Chords and released How to Clean Everything, their first album. After a series of EP’s and splits they released Less Talk, More Rock in 1996. After the album John Samson, due to anxiety and not enjoying playing shows and musical differences, quit the band and formed the Weakerthans.

After Samson left the band became a lot more aggressive and had less pop sensibilities. The two next albums on Fat Today’s Empire and Tomorrow’s Ashes and Potemkin City Limits were more hardcore, and even thrash metal leaning. On the later records such as Supporting Caste and Failed States they returned back to progressive thrash it seems. PCL was the last album to be released on Fat; the reasons for their departure were political. When it comes to their political ideology, I would say that they’re on the libertarian left side of the political chart. In an interview with Wild Donna, they say: “Yeah, generally our songs are derived from struggling through daily life and trying to make sense of this upside down and backwards world. We seem to be the type of people who have a burning need to communicate ideas through music. We have no real plan or agenda we just speak what’s moving us at the moment, be that animal rights, human trafficking, our own shortcomings. or any injustices we feel strongly about. In the end we’re always aiming for a more peaceful and just world.”

On the label of Less Talk, More Rock the band describe themselves as Animal friendly, Anti-fascist, Gay-positive and pro-feminist. As mentioned earlier, the departure from Fat was political. Propagandhi submitted a song to Fat Mike’s Rock Against Bush comp even if they opposed both candidates (Fat Mike famously supported John Kerry over Bush). What, however, became the final straw was Propagandhi insulting billionaire Democrat supporter George Soros, and Fat Mike thought it could hurt the Punkvoter cause and wanted to put Propagandhi on the second comp instead, something they refused. Later on, the Fat released Potemkin City Limits; on the song “Rock for Suitable Capitalism”, Propagandhi also came hugely criticised Fat Mike, something that hurt his feelings. He claimed they worked for the same goals, just in different ways. Chris Hannah said in the documentary A Fat Wreck that he expected him not to take it as seriously as he did. Fat Mike claimed Epitaph’s Brett Gurewitz said he would’ve kicked them off the label if it were him. After PCL, they parted ways and their next album was only released on their own label G7 Welcoming Committee and a Canadian label called Smallman. Though known for their politically correct stances, they also often use politically incorrect gallows-humour like saying “free John Hinkley” and saying what they hate about ISIS is that they aren’t there when you need them, with a ‘TrumpInauguration’ hashtag.

The first Propagandhi song I heard was “Back to the Motor League” from Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes. I always thought it was a bit macho and I found the lyrics silly, but there was something very melodic about the chorus and I didn’t understand that the lyrics were supposed to be sarcastic. I didn’t really get into them before I heard How to Clean Everything and I was pretty much blown away. I thought they sounded like a Fat Wreck band, but even better ,and I sort of got the lyrics more than before and I found them provocative both shock-wise and thought-wise.

How to Clean Everything was released on Fat May 31st 1993 and Less Talk, More Rock was released on Fat April 23rd 1996. I don’t think the albums are very different musically, the lyrics might be a bit more mature on the latter, but they reflect on the same topics. A huge difference is seen in the album covers. HtCE is more cartoonish and full of colors. LTMR is a lot darker and shows a man getting attacked by bulls, probably to show the horrors of rodeos. The picture is the promotional poster for the Calgary Stampede in 2004.

Western Apathy and Ignorance

“Apparently, I’m A “P.C. Fascist” (Because I Care About Both Human and Non-human Animals) (Less Talk, More Rock)”

The song starts up with Chris introducing his otherwise productive and brilliant friends who resort to ad hominem attacks on people who take a stand against oppression. He feels marginalized and penalized for standing up against different kinds of oppression. He says that they ignore the issue and deny relations between consumption and brutality. Aristotle is known for saying that ignorance can rid someone of guilt and Jesus is known for saying something similar “Forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34) something that often by turned around into “forgive them not, they know what they’re doing”, something Chris indirectly does in this song when he says they can feign ignorance, but they’re not stupid, they’re just selfish. Chris shows disgust for the idea that someone can become a commodity, whether it relates to worker oppression, sexism or consuming meat and wonders if they could do the same to him and treat him as a commodity or a machine. To me, the main point in the song is to point out that we have a responsibility to call out people who do shitty things and we should be expected to be called out if we do something shitty too and that doing that does not make someone a P.C fascist. The song ends with “Consider someone else: Stop consuming animals”. I see this as an introduction to the next song “Nailing Descartes to the Wall” and claims that fighting against animal consumption is just as important as fighting against sexism, classism and racism and other issues that have to do with oppression and privilege.

“Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass (How to Clean Everything)”

The title refers to Ethiopian regent Hailie Selassie who reigned in the country from 1930 to a coup in 1974. He was born Lij Tafari Makonnen and when he was Governor of Harer he got the name Ras Tafari (Ras means “head”) and gave name to a religious movement: The Rastafari movement.  The movement started as a Pan African movement in Jamaica. Rastafarians believe that Selassie is the messiah and that God had put him on earth to lead Africans back to Africa and back to freedom, similar to what Moses did to the Israelites according to the Bible. Selassie visited Jamaica and seemed honored by the movement, but denied his own divinity. Reggae music is often related to Rastafarianism. So I’ve always thought it was quite a clever thing to make this song a reggae song. I definitely think it’s one of the band’s stronger songs. There are several ways to interpret it, one of them is sort of racist. It could be a critcism of Selassie (as the title suggest) and the black Rastafari movement and why they would believe in a god that has accepted oppression of black people (How can you justify belief in a god that has left you behind?). This would be a rather strange criticism from a white, privileged person to have of an oppressed people’s movement and the idea of filling the gap between the upper and lower class doesn’t make that much sense in this interpretation. However, if this song is directed to western, middle class followers of Rastafarianism who don’t really understand its background, I think it makes more sense.  A third option could be that the song is a critique of religion in itself, especially the Judeo-Christian religions. The song doesn’t touch much on Pan Africanism or Rastafari as a black movement at all and Chris sings “an amalgamation of Jewish scripture and Christian thought”, which is in many ways is the basis for Rastafarianism, but it’s also the basis for the culture and religious practice in the west in general, and Chris knocks it down by saying “what will that get you? Not a fuck of a lot”. Where the song starts off as a song referencing Rastafarianism it turns into a song about the Middle East conflict and Zionism. Judaism and Rastafari differ in the views of Zion; the promised land. To Jewish Zionists the promised land is Jerusalem or Israel, while to the Rastafarians it’s Ethiopia or Africa as a continent. When Chris mentions the “promised land” in the song he means what Zionists refer to as the ‘promised land’; territories in Israel and Palestine, excluding Rastafarianism from further interpretation in the song.

In that case, the song is just as much directed at Christian supporters of Judeo-Zionism and the song is a critique of western obsession with Israel and America’s relations to Israel as it is at Rastafarianism. Chris sings that Mount Zion in Jerusalem is a mine field and the Palestinian territories the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be used as parking lots for American tourists (and fascist cops). The most famous part of the song is probably the end: “Fuck Zionism, fuck militarism, fuck Americanism, fuck nationalism” and most importantly, “fuck religion”.

Connection

The biggest connection between these two songs is the focus on the apathy and ignorance of the west and how privilege distorts our views and make us accept exploitation, sexism, rape culture and not only eating meat, but also support the industry that has turned animals into a commodity, as well as turning a blind eye to or even support Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and justifying these actions with ideological or religious beliefs. Another connection is the use of the word “fascist”, I’m not sure if either of the examples of “fascist” in the songs refers to the actual ideology of fascism. In “PC Fascist” it’s used ironically and to ridicule people who call people who are PC as fascist; in “Haillie Sellasse” the word “fascist” is used about cops and might be more used in a literal sense, either about the police in Israel or American cops or, even more metaphorically, meaning military cops.

Animal Rights

“Nailing Descartes to the Wall/ (Liquid) Meat Is Still Murder” (Less Talk, More Rock)

Like I wrote earlier, “Nailing Descartes” is a continuation of the animal rights theme of “PC Fascist”. The song is a defense of militant veganism. Chris describes himself as being between reason and insanity because he values non-human lives as much as human lives. He also says he is “as stupid as anyone”, but he knows his mistakes and he cannot continue consuming animals. I’ve learned something from reading the comments on Songmeanings.com about the song. René Descartes didn’t believe that animals had souls and nailed his dog, alive, to the wall to prove it. The song’s title is a reference to this. He also sings about having dreams about him and a gun and a different species that rhymes with Neumans, it would seem that he’s singing from the point of view of a cow in that particular line. It’s a reference to Tori Amos’s touching, horrific and brilliant lyric about rape; “Me and a Gun (Me and a gun and a man on my back)”. This could of course be a coincidence, but it seems like he is trying to connect treatment of animals to rape. Later in the song, he sings “Meat is still murder, dairy is still rape”. As much as Propagandhi rely on the shock factor, this is a case where I think they are pretty much out of line. It’s one thing to believe that human and non-human animals are equal, but to mock a woman’s rape story seems a bit vile. I guess you could compare it to Morrissey’s comments after the Utøya terrorist attacks in 2011 where he said it was nothing compared to what McDonalds does. The song is just as much a song directed at vegetarians as it is to carnivores and says that if you’re drinking milk (liquid meat?) you’re also part of the problem.

“I Want You to Want Me” (How to Clean Everything)

This cover of Cheap Trick’s classic is, as aforementioned, what got the band signed to Fat. The lyrics to the song are pretty much classic love songs of wanting someone to want you and wanting to do anything for that to happen. The song is sung to someone with the name Megan. The Cheap Trick version was a huge hit in Canada. Lyrically, it’s different from most of Propgandhi’s own songs and it could have been a sarcastic jab at cliché love songs. That being said, in the end of the song Megan is rhymed with “vegan” and the highlight of this love story is that the Megan in Propagandhi’s cover is a vegan and doesn’t eat bacon.

Connection

LTMR is an album where Animal rights and vegetarianism and veganism are very prominent themes, but on HtCe there aren’t many references to this at all except in this cover where they in the end proclaim that Megan is a vegan that doesn’t eat bacon.

Ignore the Message We Convey

“Less Talk, More Rock” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The title track of LSMR is a sarcastic jab at people who just want to hear the tunes, but don’t care much about the message behind the songs. Another theme of the song is homophobia, something they also wrote about in “Homophobes Are Just Pissed Cuz They Can’t Get Laid”.  In the song, Chris describes homosexual experiences, one at nine and the other at 23. The song shows the importance of letting homophobes dance to a song about gay experiences and make money from them. He encourages the toughest guys to dance to the song. There might be a double meaning there, one relating to the “tough” guys, as the macho homophobes, but also tough, as in brave, who are willing to take a stand against homophobia.

“Anti-Manifesto” (How to Clean Everything)

The opening track to HtCE is lamenting the fact that they are only there to entertain and that people ignore the message behind the songs. In the documentary A Fat Wreck, Fat Co-Owner Erin Burkett said that Propagandhi didn’t care much about the music at all compared to the message and could’ve played any kind of music as long as they got their message across in the beginning. Chris states that he doesn’t want to be a soundtrack to a rebellion that is cut-to-fit and that they stand for something more than “a faded sticker on a skateboard”. He describes the culture of fans who love the music, but don’t care about the politics of the band. He also states that the band offers hope, perseverance, a vision, green ink, a 26 Oz. and a big case of big mouth.  By the end, he says that nothing ever felt as right as this and that he “stole this riff”. I think the song is in many ways comparable to the Clash’s “White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)”, a song about how punk has become a fashion statement, rather than a place for political ideas. Musically, it’s a great opener and shows what the album is about to give us. The vocal harmonies are great!

Connection

I feel like the messages in these songs are probably those that are most similar in the songs I’m comparing. They both have to do with fans that just listen to the songs because of the music and don’t care about or agree with the message. This does makes me ask one important question though, does one have to agree with the message to enjoy music? It’d be scary if you had to agree with every band you liked’s political opinions, but I’m guessing what they are saying is there are people who don’t care about politics at all and would rather they didn’t display their opinions at all. I would say the people who don’t care at all would be more of a problem than those that disagree completely because at least then there are grounds for a debate or a discussion and the music has the purpose of creating a reaction in those that think different and could also change minds.

Samson: The Man of the Sun

“Anchorless” (Less Talk, More Rock)

A quite personal song about the loss of a close family member who you had ambivalent feelings toward. In the song, the “I” voice mourns the dead relative, but also states that they don’t want to end up like this person. They also ask the dead family member why they were so anchorless and compare them to a boat that’s abandoned in a backyard. It’s an honest and beautiful song. There’s a reference to British writer P.G Wodehouse, who the protagonist inherits novels of that belonged to the dead relative. The dead relative has lived in this small town (in Southern Manitoba) and died there. The song paints a picture of someone who never got to express their true feelings and stayed in the same place all their lives, but still didn’t find their actual place. The song isn’t disrespectful or mean (except maybe the use of “finally dying” in the opening line), neither is it touching and sad, in the sense that the protagonist isn’t awfully sad or grieving, but it is sad in the sense that you can sense that that you feel more pity for the dead than for the survivor. The song’s bridge goes “I don’t wanna live and die here”

“Gifts” (Less Talk, More Rock)

In this song we see a side of Propagandhi we hardly see anymore and it’s a song about self-doubt and self-deprecation. It’s a song about the fact that no matter how old you get you will still be clueless and hopeless and there isn’t always much to do to solve whatever you’re going through and sometimes all you have are memories of times gone by that you feel the need to remember.  The song is about reaching out to an old friend with a gift that is a promise. The promise is “a razor blade and this broken piece of chain/ a history left to rust out in the rain”. It shows that no matter how thoughtful our gifts, our memories or our promises are they will at one point start to fade.

“Showdown (G.E/P)” (How to Clean Everything)

Probably one of the most interesting songs the band ever wrote. The melody is very good and the execution is perfect. The lyrics are a showdown of two entirely different and almost contrasting lyrics and themes, mixed into one song. The song consists of the two songs “Greenest Eyes” and “Preamble” mixed together. “Greenest Eyes” is a love song about not finding the words to say, “Preamble” is a political song about freedom of expression and freedom of speech. “Greenest Eyes” is written by John and “Preamble” is written by Chris. Chris starts off the song with the opening line “We spoke our minds too clearly on some fundamental rights”. His point of view seems to be that freedom of speech only goes so far before you can get in trouble for what you stand for. Later in the song he sings “I’m completely free and liberty guaranteed/Unless, of course, you decide I’m not”. We are basically taught to conform and step in line to the values we are ascribed and that we are free to say what we want, but not if it goes outside of these values. Chris goes against the authorities by saying “I never have and never will pledge allegiance”. Interestingly, Canada doesn’t seem to have the “Pledge of allegiance” thing that the US has, but Chris might mean it metaphorically, in general or he’s trying to appeal to an American audience.

John comes in later singing about how he’s trying to find the words to say to someone, but he can’t find them. He is showing a completely different version of himself than he is on the inside. He repeats “I was right behind you”. He’s showing the meaninglessness of words. She whispers something in his ear, but he can’t hear it. It’s over. This part is beautiful: “Girls with the greenest eyes/ First time you have kissed/ Our quiet softest sighs/ A song for all of those who shot and missed”. In the end, the two themes sort of blend together. Where “Greenest Eyes” shows how words fail you by the end of a romantic affair, “Preamble” shows how words are meaningless when you go against the government and the authorities. John sings “final words are boring”, Chris sings “All these words are boring”. Chris says it’s time for a reaction, but he’s taught to be a pawn, but he is willing to stand up against the government. He sings he won’t “fall in line behind you”. The “you” here are the authorities, whereas the “you” in “Greenest Eyes” is the woman with the greenest eyes. The song ends with Chris and John singing “I was right behind you” and it means entirely different things.

Connection

The connection these three songs have in common are, of course, that they’re all written by John K. Samson. As I wrote earlier, he also started the band the Weakerthans after parting with Propagandhi. He recorded “The Greenest Eyes” and “Gifts” as solo numbers and he did “Anchorless” on the first Weakerthans album called Fallow. He added the lyrics:

“Shoebox full of photos;

found a grainy mirror.

Sunken cheeks and slender hands.

Grocery lists and carbon-copied letters offer silence for my small demands.

Hey how’d you get so anchorless?”

This thing got a bit long, so I’m making it a two-parter. Stay tuned for part two…

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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”.

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  1. “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.
  2. “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”
  3. “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.
  1. “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”
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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!
  5. “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!
  6. “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?
  7. “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.
  1. “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.
  2. “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”.
  3. “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”.
  4. “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”.

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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.

Image result for me first gimme gimmes are a drag

This is a little cautionary tale to all you music stealers out there! When I was 12-13 I used to download Blink-182 songs I had never heard off the internet, covers of famous songs. I’d obviously know it wasn’t Blink, but I had no idea who sang them (Little did I know it was the same band). I would have songs like “Seasons in the Sun”, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Uptown Girl” (I think the latter was credited to Weezer). The idea of Punk covers of famous songs fascinated me. In the summer of 2003 I would hear “I Believe I Can Fly” on the modern rock radio I was listening to at the time. Again, little did I know that these were all done by the same band. I googled “Phantom of the Opera punk cover”, and what showed up was NOFX, but it didn’t really sound like NOFX.  2003 was the year I went to London for the first time, for my 14th birthday and decided to see the musical Phantom of the Opera. I went to the record store Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus and they played the Me First album  Have a Ball and realized they were the band who sang all these punk covers I’d enjoyed the last few months. My parents really liked the band too, in fact we bought an album each, I bought Take a Break, my dad bought Have a Ball and my mom bought Are a Drag, because it had the Cabaret song on.

So, yeah that shows the dangers of illegal downloading! But then again I wouldn’t have heard them if it weren’t for illegal downloading. 2004 was a year with a lot of memories for me. And quite a few include the Gimmes. I remember coming home from seeing a movie and listening to Have a Ball. I went to the movies a lot that year apparently. I remember seeing the movie Lost in Translation two months later and the Bond song by Carly Simon “Nobody Does It Better” (from The Spy Who Loved Me) appeared in the movie and it made me think of the Gimme Gimmes version on Have a Ball. I remember buying Blow in the Wind and I remember buying Ruin Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah. I also remember listening to the latter the day I crashed a moped when trying to learn how to ride one (never tried that shit again). I slowly realized that the originals were better on Blow in the Wind. I also remember a Beatles cover band playing “All My Lovin’” (which the Gimmes also covered) at the Cavern Club in Liverpool during the Easter. I often feel like Have a Ball is the album that has affected me the most. When I heard “Nobody Does it Better” in Lost in Translation it made me think of the Gimmes version. When I heard James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” in, I thought of the Gimmes. Both versions are great, but they produce such different feelings. Taylor’s version is so sad and beautiful, while the Gimmes version is so fast, lively and almost positive. And it’s a strange twist to such an incredibly sad song. It’s one of their best moments and one of the reasons why I’ve wanted to write about Have a Ball. But lately I’ve been really into Are a Drag, so I decided in the 11th hour to write about that instead!

The band was started by bassist Fat Mike and guitarist Joey Cape in the mid-nineties. Fat Mike’s label Fat Wreck Chords did well, and so did their bands NOFX and Lagwagon and Mike wanted a side-project, but he didn’t want to make the mistake a lot of side-project bands make, when they have the same singer and you can’t distinguish them from their other bands. So instead of Joey and Mike fighting for who’d do the vocal duties, they wanted to go for someone else. The first choice was someone from Bracket, but they went with Spike Slawson from Swingin’ Utters, who isn’t even their singer, but he actually has one of the best singing voices in Punk Rock and he is also did back up vocals on several NOFX albums. On lead guitar, the band was joined by No Use For a Name’s Chris Shiflett who went on to join the Foo Fighters. Lagwagon’s Dave Raun was hitting sticks behind the kit. The name Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is the title of a book by Gerald G. Jampolsky and Diane V. Cirincione.  The band is famous for their album titles that are both commands and sentences describing the actions of the Gimmes (similar to what the Queers did for a lot of albums), from (The Gimme Gimmes) Have a Ball to Love Their Country.  They are also known for singles covering a specific artist and naming the 7’’ after the artist, usually by first name, like “Elton” and “Willie” and “Stevie, the 7’’ are usually released on different labels than Fat, and they’ve released singles on quite a few labels. Since 2007, the singles are also released on Fat. They also wear matching clothes on stage, like suits or Hawaiian T-Shirts. The first album Have a Ball was released in 1997.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Are a Drag was released May 18, 1999 on Fat Wreck Chords. The album was their second full length. It was produced by Ryan Greene and the band themselves. The theme of the album is show tunes from Broadway. Most of the songs on the album are traditionally sung by women. The album cover has the band members dressed up in drag!(hence the pun in the title) Recently Fat Mike has become more open about wearing women’s clothing. This is also shown on the new NOFX album with there being a song called “I’m a Transvest-lite”. The album cover is pretty cool and maybe my favorite Gimme Gimmes album cover (Blow in the Wind is close though), but not sure if I should judge the album by its cover, even if they are a cover band! Their newest album Are We Not Men? We Are Diva also has a cover with the band in drag. This is also their first album that doesn’t have the command and action title, and rather as a reference to DEVO’s first album.

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  1. “Over the Rainbow”: The opening track is the classic from The Wizard of Oz. It’s a perfect opener. The movie version is sung by Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy Gale. The song is sung in the beginning of the movie when Dorothy is told by her aunt to find a place where she won’t get into trouble. The place Dorothy thinks of is a place where her trouble melts like lemon drops. She wonders why birds can fly over the rainbow and she can’t. The rainbow is a common symbol for something that is magic and beautiful. We can trace this back at least as far as Norse mythology, when the rainbow, that they called Bifröst, was the road that separated the common people in Midgard from the gods in Asgard. Later, this same symbolism is also found in several fairy tales where you are promised a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This stems from Irish culture, and the gold has been hidden by Leprechauns. In later years, the rainbow is also associated with LGBTQ culture, something the Gimme Gimmes have embraced at their shows. Later Dorothy ends up in the magic Land of Oz and becomes friends with a scarecrow that resembles Joe Queer’s view of a lot of punk fans and posers. When she arrives there the black and white movie turns into a color flick. The movie always looked so much newer to me and it looks very modern to be from 1939. The movie is based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W Denslow. There was also created a 1902 Broadway musical about it, but it doesn’t include “Over the Rainbow” and most of the songs have become forgotten in the dustbin of history. Later Eva Cassidy and Israel Kamakawiwo have recorded popular versions of the song. The Gimme Gimmes version starts up with Dave Raun and Fat Mike playing together before a pick slide kicks in the rest of the band and Spike starts singing. I think it’s one of the first MFAGG songs where we can really hear how great Spike’s voice is. When I saw them live their performance of “Over the Rainbow” was a highlight. On the album cover, Dave Raun is dressed like Dorothy
  1. “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”: I remember that when I was a small child “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” was one of my favorite songs. I recall watching the movie, Evita, starring Madonna and thought the movie was a bit boring, but loved the shit out of that song. Evita started as a rock opera/concept album by written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice following up Jesus Christ Superstar. The story is about Eva Peròn, who married Juan Peròn, the president of Argentina. The song is sung from Eva’s ghost to not mourn her. She sings the song from the balcony of Casa Rosada. The rhyming scheme of the first two verses and pre-choruses is interesting, as the lines in the second rhyme on the line in the first rather than rhyming on a line its own verse. The Gimme Gimmes version is one of their finest works. And the bridge melody sounds so different from the original, and I like it a lot better. Joey Cape’s back up vocals are awesome, and I used to think it was Fat Mike for years, but yeah, thumbs up Joey!
  2. “Science Fiction/Double Feature”: I always liked this song. I found the lyrics to be quite weird and I couldn’t really think of how a musical with a song like that would be like. It actually took me a lot of time before I realized what the Rocky Horror Show was. For years I mixed it up with Little Shop of Horrors. I remember watching the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show in November 2012. It was the fourth month living on my own in Bergen. I remember liking the movie a lot, but thinking it was sort of weird. “Science Fiction/Double Feature” is the opening (and ending) song of the musical. It’s a tribute to B-movies and references a lot of characters from horror and sci-fi movies like King Kong, Dr. X, The invisible man, Leo G. Carol. A lot of these are the same that I mentioned in the Teen Idols article about “Midnight Picture Show”. The song is sung by the character Usherette who is a character in disguise, usually played by the same actress as the character Magenta, meaning the song is usually sung by female singers. In the picture show, however, the writer and composer of the musical Richard ‘O Brian sings the song and Magenta actress Patricia Quinn lip syncs the song and creates the lip imagine that distinguishes the movie version from the musical. When I was in Leeds in 2013, me and my mom went to an Entertainment Exchange store(a chainstore for used entertainment) we found a very cheap cd of a West End production of the musical and it’s one of the best performances I’ve heard of it, at least in English. A year later when I decided to write my own musical, The Rocky Horror Show became sort of an inspiration because of how weird it was, but still included some incredibly heartfelt and great rock n’ roll songs. It’s interesting that except for O’ Brian himself, few males have sung “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and Spike is also than a rarity. A brilliant thing the Gimmes did was with this relatively slow-paced musical is taking the slowest song and speeding it up. I don’t know if it’s a bias with growing up with this version, but to me this version of the song is my favorite. I love the speed of the song and I love the vocal harmonies in the chorus. To me this is how this song should sound! A few years ago I also discovered that there was a Norwegian version of the musical, that was put on stage in Oslo in 1977(Punx!) and it’s translated into Norwegian by Folk singer Ole Paus and he made a quite risqué musical seem even dirtier. I really got into this version Christmas of 2015 and the last year it was one of my most played records on Spotify (I’ve heard the vinyl is pretty damn hard to find). The cast includes some of Norway’s’ most famous singers and actors and also some talented jazz and rock n’ roll musicians. And it’s actually a really great version of the musical. And while this year has been really Rocky Horror for me, there’s more, FOX is making a new version of the picture show. The Rocky Horror Show was also a huge inspiration for Fat Mike growing up and “Don’t dream it, be it” from “Rose Tint My World” (or “Floor Show”, more specifically in the part known as “Don’t Dream It”) was a line that affected him a lot and he says it has encouraged him to follow his dreams and dress the way he wants. Spike is dressed as the crossdresser Frank-n-furter on the cover.
  3. “Summertime”: Another play I’ve been obsessed with the last months is the American opera Porgy and Bess. An opera based on a book by DuBose Heyward called Porgy. Heyward also wrote a lot of lyrics to the opera, including “Summertime” and the libretto. George Gershwin composed the music and his brother Ira wrote some of the lyrics as well, making have both Heyward and Ira’s individual and distinctive lyrical styles. George Gershwin’s idea was to write an America Folk opera. The song “Summertime” has become a jazz standard and one of the most famous songs of all time. It’s been famously covered by The Zombies on their debut album, Sam Cooke, Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday first made it a hit in 1936. Sublime also sampled it in their hit “Doin’ Time”. The song us sung several times in the opera and most significantly when the character Clara sings a lullaby to an orphaned baby. The opera’s characters are mostly African Americans except for the sort of racist cops. There was made a great movie of the opera as a musical version in the late fifties with Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in the lead roles. Harry Belafonte was offered the role, but declined because he saw the opera as racist. Many African American singers have embraced the opera and the opera has also on several occasions been used to protest segregation and Jim Crow laws, but it’s also seen as an opera that reinforces negative racist stereotypes. The movie is actually one of the first big movies with a mostly African American cast, but was shown in limited theaters because of the controversy around the topic. The Gimme Gimmes version has kind of a surfy vibe to it. I don’t think it’s the best version of the song, but it has its moment, especially the added “Hush little baby don’t you cry”’s. Fat Mike’s bass line is also some of his best work, I’d say. They also made a music video for it. They are in Hawaiian T-shirts on Hawaii! They drink Pina Coladas and surf. They’ve actually made very few videos, the other two are “Danny’s Song” and “I Believe I Can Fly”. The lyrics to the song are seen as some of the best in musical theater.
  4. “My Favorite Things”: The Sound of Music might be the most famous musical ever and “My Favorite Things” is probably the most famous song from it. Made famous by Julie Andrews in the movie version. Plenty of punk band have covered songs from the musical and The Vandals do a great version of “So Long Farewell”. Dr. Frank also references “My Favorite Things” in the MTX song “We Hate All the Same Things”. “My Favorite Things” is about thinking of your favorite things when life seems bad and shit gets better. The Gimme Gimmes version is a good one! They do something they were to do a lot afterwards (and had done only with “You’ve Got a Friend (Blitzkrieg Bop)”, where they mash up famous songs with Punk Rock classics. “My Favorite Things” is mashed up with Bad Religion’s “Generator” and has the same intro, just singing “When the bug bites, when the bees sting I don’t feel so fucking bad” instead of “Like a rock, like a planet, like a fucking atom bomb”.
  5. “Rainbow Connection”: I remember hearing this song on Are a Drag and thinking it was one of the most beautiful songs I’d ever heard. I had no idea it was originally by the Muppets. The song is from The Muppet Movie from 1978. The song was nominated for an Oscar, but lost. Kermit’s (and Spike’s for that matter) opening line is “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” and I think I might have answered that one in “Over the Rainbow”. The song is for all the dreamers and romantic fools who believe in magic and shit that is above our borings lives here on earth. It’s a beautiful and cute song. Both the Muppets version and the Gimme Gimmes one.
  6. “Phantom of the Opera”: Like I said earlier, “Phantom of the Opera” was one of the first Gimme Gimmes songs I listened to, and I remember liking it from the get-go. It even inspired me to want to go to the actual musical when I was in London, on the same trip we heard Have a Ball in Tower Records! The musical was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics and parts of the book by Richard Stilgoe. The thing I remember from the musical was the terrible wooden seats and the great mints I had to chew on. I remember thinking the musical was terrible and I usually can’t stand operatic singing and this was a hell of a lot of that. I also remember this old man who saw it for the ninth the time and he always went alone cause his wife hated it. Kind of debunks the whole South Park episode, doesn’t it? I still love the Gimme Gimmes version though, the opening riff is great and the performance is awesome. It’s also has female guest vocals, I think it’s from Karina Denike from Dance Hall Crashers.
  7. “I Sing the Body Electric”: I’ve always loved this song too. I had no idea it was from Fame, until I saw the movie. The movie is pretty cool, and I guess I didn’t expect that. It’s about a Performing arts high school in New York and they want to become famous. I think “I Sing the Body Electric” is a much stronger song than the actual theme song. And the line “Anytime anytime we will all be stars” is pretty fitting to the song, even if we don’t know if anyone of the characters will actually be stars. And the ambiguity of the word “stars” is interesting in the song. The title of the song is actually a reference to a poem by Walt Whitman. This is America, right there.
  8. “It’s Raining on Prom Night”: A musical or movie probably everyone has some relationship with, whether they hate it or love it or feel indifferent to it is Grease. I remember the first time seeing it when I was 7, the girls let me hang with them and see Grease, even if I was a dude, after that we listened to the Smurfs, I used to love the Smurfs when I was 7, but that’s another story. I guess I’ve always been sort of ambivalent to the movie, I’ve always loved a lot of the songs. I had no idea it was actually a pre-existing musical before the movie. The movie was released in the time of 50’s revival movies and disco, and the mix is really strange, since there was no disco in the 50’s and the Gibb-penned Frankie Valli tune just called “Grease” makes no sense in the movie at all, but it must’ve appealed to the disco crowd in the late 70’s. A lot of the most famous songs in the movie weren’t in the musical and were written specifically for the movie, and some of the best songs as well to be fair, like “You’re the One That I Want”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Sandy”. In later productions of the musical, all of these songs have become included. The most famous songs from the movie are songs that are sung the world over and have been covered a lot, Less Than Jake even made a cover EP of the most famous songs from the movie. The Gimme Gimmes were clever and chose to cover a song that hasn’t been covered that much or isn’t that famous. “It’s Raining on Prom Night” is a way more significant song in the musical than it is in the movie. In the musical, it appears in the beginning of the second act where Sandy sings along to the radio dreaming of Danny. Whereas in the movie it is just played in the background on the jukebox at the diner. The song is about a teenage girl’s expectations for the prom, and how these all fall apart when it’s raining and she gets the flu and her corsage as fallen down the sewer with her sister’s I.D. There’s a spoken part, and is one of the few songs along with “Leaving on a Jet Plane”(they sing “fuck around” instead of “played around” and “Stand by Your Man” where they sing about being the Gimmes) where they have actually changed the lyrics of the song. The girl speaking in the song says “It’s raining real menstrual blood from my thighs” rather than “tears from my eyes” and “He’s never gonna want to eat meat again” rather than “Make him want to see me again”. Their version also has acapella ending with dark baritone (I think, don’t arrest me on this one!) background voice and I always wondered who sang, but I think it’s actually Spike doing all the vocals in the ending himself. Fat Mike is dressed like Sandy on the album cover.
  9. “Tomorrow”: One of my favorite songs as a young kid was “Tomorrow” from Annie. I think the first version I heard of it was a Norwegian version. I always thought the melody was beautiful and I don’t know if I paid much attention to the lyrics. I remember renting the VHS of the 1982 film version one night I was sleeping over at my grandpa’s house and we ate pizza and watched the movie. I remember thinking it was so sad, but it was a cool evening. The musical was based on a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray and the musical has music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Michael Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. It debuted in 1977. Strouse, apparently, wrote the song in 1970 for a short film called Replay, with different lyrics and title(“The Way We Are Now”. The finished “Tomorrow” was actually written for a musical version of Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algeron, but was added to Annie because it was having problems. It’s now along with “Hard knock Life” the most famous song from the musical. The Gimme Gimmes version was a bit of a letdown for me when I first heard it and it meaning so much to me as a kid, but it grew on me and the English version of the song made me realize how great the lyrics really are. It’s like it’s totally sad and totally wistful at the same time; “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, you’re always a day away”. Yesterday is something we can’t really do anything about, but tomorrow is always there full of hope. I definitely think it’s one of the best songs ever written. The Gimme Gimmes also add a bits from Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” in the end. Joey Cape is dressed like Annie on the album cover.
  10. “What I Did for Love”: A Chorus Line is a musical I don’t really know much of, except that I love the Gimme Gimmes version of this song. It appears to be rather meta and about an audition for a Broadway show. The song is sung by the character Diana Morales in the play and is by the end and it’s about someone not regretting what they did for love. The Gimme Gimmes riff has always reminded me a bit of Blink’s “Wendy Clear”, but I doubt there is a connection as Enema of the State and Are a Drag had somewhat close release dates. Chris Shiflett is dressed as one of the chorus line dancer on the cover.
  11. “Cabaret”: I saw the movie Cabaret last night, so don’t tell me I’m not doing research! The movie starred Liza Minelli and was from 1972. The musical is about Berlin in pre-Hitler Germany and we can subtly see the rise of the National Socialist party. Most of the musical takes place in a club called Kit Kat Klub (KKK?). The title song is sung by the main character Sally Bowles and is by the end of the musical where she has decided to become a star and had an abortion, because a baby might’ve ruined her career. We can see racist attitudes coming towards the surface through the musical and Fritz, the Jewish character, experiences antisemitism and discrimination. The lyrics to the song have always fascinated me and I remember being shocked at 14 how messed up the lyrics were and I thought the Gimme Gimmes re-wrote them until I saw a documentary on the musical in musical class in school later in 2004. I think the lyrics are brilliant to be honest: “The day she died the neighbors came to snick her/That’s what comes from too much pills and liquor, but when I saw her laid out like a queen/she was the happiest corpse I’ve ever seen”. The bass line in the Gimme Gimmes version is great and reminds me a bit of “Why Can’t I Touch it?” by the Buzzcocks and it was one of the first things I remember from the Buzzcocks, I don’t think it’s one of their mash-ups. It’s also the only song on the album where they play Ska. It’s a great performance and a great ending to the album.

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So now I got that covered. I think this is the longest article in this column until now. Almost thousand words more than the second place too! Wow! The next one will be another 90’s Pop Punk classic: Got Beat Up by Weston.

Sometimes you hear an album and just dismiss it as a generic Pop Punk album, and then realize later how brilliant it actually is. Death by Television is one of those albums! This is a difficult record to do, as Screeching Weasel’s old guitarist and co-founder Jughead had an episode on the album as part of his podcast Jughead’s Basement and the podcast was a huge inspiration for this column and I feel like he said more on the album than I could ever say, but it’s still an important record to me, so I’ll try. Jughead now does a YouTube thing when he talks about all the records he’s played on, worth checking out! The first time I ever heard of the Lillingtons was when I got a personal message on the Pop Punk Message Bored from someone promoting their band claiming they sounded like the Lillingtons and Teenage Bottlerocket (I had heard neither at the time). Kody from the Lillingtons also plays and sings in Teenage Bottlerocket, I think it took me sometimes to find that out and I started listening to TBR in early 2008 when Warning Device came out. The personal message I got was around the time I joined the bored in the summer of 2007. I think at the time I accidently stumbled over a Lillingtons song thinking it was awesome. It actually took me a year to listen to the Lillingtons again and I got really hooked on a couple of the songs from Death by Television.

The band was formed in Newcastle, Wyoming in 1995 by Kody Templeman on guitar and vocals, Cory Laurence on Bass and Timmy “V” O’Hara on drums. Zack Rawhauser also played guitar with the band for a while. Their first 7’’ was recorded by Joe Queer, and its title track “Lost My Marbles” also made it to his comp More Bounce to the Ounce. In 1996 they released their debut LP Shit out of Luck. A pretty regular pop punk album, about high school, heartbreak and aliens. The latter would be a more common theme for the band as the sci-fi themed Death by Television became their next album. They also released the more Ramones-y conspiracy themed Backchannel Broadcast in 2002 and a more polished album in 2006, The Too Late Show that would give us a hint of what Kody’s new band, Teenage Bottlerocket would sound like. Ironically, most of these songs are credited to Zach Rawhouser, who had returned to the band for the latest releases.

Death by Television was released in March 1999 on Panic Button and Lookout Records. It was produced by Mass Giorgini, like so many great Pop Punk records and recorded at the Sonic Iguana. The album cover is done by John Yates and to me could be the poster for a 50’s dystopian B-movie, a cover that couldn’t be more fitting for the band’s imagery and lyrics. A significant feature of the album is that extra vocal harmonies are often added and expanded in the last chorus of a song. Fat Mike commented on this on the Jughead’s Basement podcast. Fat Mike also wanted to release the album, but missed the boat on it. He originally thought it was a run of the mill Pop Punk album, but when he realized he was wrong, Ben Weasel’s Panic Button was already the band’s label. Fat Mike has also said it is his favorite Pop Punk album. Redscare re-released the album in 2005.

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  1. “War of the Worlds”: The album starts off with a rocker! And it’s off its rocker too! “War of the World” always gets me all pumped up. I’m not sure if all these songs are based on books or movies, but most likely this song is based on, or at least inspired by, H.G Wells’ classic science fiction novel The War of the Worlds. There’s been made over ten movies based on the book and Orson Welles (No relation, I believe) made his famous radio play based on it, that scared the shit out of America in 1938. Jeff Wayne made a concept album based on the book and he got thee Richard Burton to narrate it. The album lasts for over one and a half hours and includes a lot of words. The Lillingtons song is barely two minutes and includes very few words. The words are almost indecipherable until the chorus kicks in and Kody screams “The war of the worlds/ we’re all gonna die!” and then we know this shit is serious! We can only thank some ancient god that it hasn’t caused as much of a furor as the Orson Welles radio play.
  2. “Don’t Trust the Humanoids”: The dystopia doesn’t end on the second song. “Don’t Trust the Humanoids” is almost as frightening as its predecessor. A humanoid is something that resembles a human ( human+oid), but isn’t human. The song is about a humanoid from outer space that wants to destroy the human race. The chorus seems like the Lillingtons’ version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, proclaiming these humanoids are shitheads and that it’s time to run them over with a van. The verses are also direct with these alien humanoids. “So toss me the old death ray and I’ll put ’em in their place”. The song is even catchier than “War of the Worlds”.
  3. “Black Hole in My Mind”: It’s not until the third song, “Black Hole in My Mind”, that the album gets really great lyrically. Like the rest of the album, it’s very minimalistic and there’s only eight lines in the entire song and like so many other Lillingtons songs the second verse is just a repetition of the first. The song could interpreted literally and metaphorically. The song is about Captain Scott, an astronaut that gets lost in space. The chorus goes “My life has been a waste of time/ I’ve got a black hole in my mind”. This could be a reference to the 1979 movie The Black Hole, or just to the concept of black holes in general. It could also have a figurative meaning. The black hole in the captain’s mind could be a metaphor for lots of things, as the actual lyrics are so vague (which also is its brilliance), It could be about depression, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, amnesia or just general confusion and discontent in life, and probably hits each person and their own personal struggles individually.
  4. “I Saw the Apeman (on the Moon)”: When I first heard the album, one of the songs that stood out to me was “I Saw the Apeman (on the Moon)”. It was so catchy and the idea of the apeman walking on the moon was a funny image. Now this reminds me that I need to see the Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ve only seen the beginning, but the beginning is somewhat reminiscent of the song. The movie (and the book, I believe, haven’t read that either!) starts with an apeman looking at the moon, he is known as the “moon-watcher” and maybe he could be walking on the moon one day. The moon is usually in fiction an interesting symbol, usually associated with werewolves and shapeshifting as well as lunacy (that I wrote about in the Goddamnit article) and there is lots of mystery to the image, even if it lights up our nights, there’s also a dark side to it (which Pink Floyd had to point for us). Of course there are also many conspiracy theories and myths related to the moon, whether it is real, whether it is made of cheese or whether we’ve been there or not. The song does reference the moon-landing, the apeman in the song is having a bad day because Neil Armstrong took his banana away. I think the song, as well as the 2001 scene, gives an image of no matter how far human beings go (both in technology and in actual destinations) we will still just be apes. The song “Super Heroes” from the Rocky Horror Show also explores the same idea, only with insects. Giving us some nihilist image of how little humans really mean in the grand scheme of things. It’s also of course references to chimpanzees being sent to space like Ham and Enos (Kody does sing “Send the apeman up instead of a chimp”). There’s a Ramones reference in the song too, in “I Wanna Be Sedated” Joey sings “Put me on a rocket, put me on a plane”, Kody sings “Put him on a rocket, put him on a blimp”. A blimp is an air-ship, usually one of those that come with advertising. I’m guessing they only used “blimp” instead of plane as it rhymes with “chimp”. The entire song is pretty catchy, but the ending when several singers do gang vocals on “I saw the apeman on the moon”.
  5. “X-Ray Specs”: The album is not only Sci-fi themed, some are also comic book and super hero themed. One could say Superman is also sci-fi to some degree, I guess. “X-Ray Specs” is about someone reading a comic book about someone wanting the same x-ray vision that Superman has, to look through people’s underwear, of course! The comic being read in the song is apparently Superman #58. The issue was released in May, 1949 and includes “Tiny Trix, the Bantam Bandit”, “Lois Lane Loves Clark Kent” and “The Case of the Second Superman”. According to the song , the reader reads page 43 to find out how to get X-ray vision. Whether or not this actually happens in the actual comic book would be interesting to find out. The song itself is pretty catchy and it’s one of those songs that seem like a cool enough song at first, but really grows on you. The title could also be a reference to Poly Styrene’s band X-Ray-Spex.
  6. “Invasion of the Saucerman”: In between all the catchy Pop Punk, there is also some faster stuff. “Invasion of the Saucerman” almost sounds like it could be a fast Bad Religion song or an 80’s hardcore song. It’s about aliens taking over our planet. It’s based on the 1957 Science fiction movie Invasion of the Saucer-men, which also based on a short story called “The Cosmic Frame”. The movie looks scary as fuck!
  7. “You’re the Only One”: The second song that I got really hooked early on was “You’re the Only One”. It’s the only song on the album that functions as a love song, even if the television theme is still there. The song is about someone being in love with a girl he sees on TV, because all the girls in his town don’t have a clue and none of them can compare to the girl on TV. It also drives him nuts and makes him stay up late and not get up before quarter to two. The second to last chorus is fantastic, with the little “heys”. The last chorus has full-on harmonies and adds so much to the song. I heard the Beatnik Termites’ “You’re the Only One” about the same time and it’s a good song as well. I can actually hear a piano in this song, during the second verse that I’ve never heard before.
  8. “I Need Some Brain Damage”: Like any Lillingtons record, the Ramones have had a huge impact and this can really be found on “I Need Some Brain Damage”. The song is masochistic and the protagonist has a wish to be hurt and put in a body cast and get some brain damage. The protagonist works at Dairy Queen and I think the idea of the song is to show that any kind of pain is better than working a shitty job.
  9. “Codename: Peabrain”: Another heavily Ramones inspired song is “Codename: Peabrain”, a song about a secret agent, and a peak into something the band would do more in the future. The song is about a Russian spy with the codename “Peabrain”, Peabrain works for the KGB. The chorus goes “My name is Codename Peabrain, my mission is revenge”. The song could also work as someone who is standing up against someone who has wronged them in the past. There’s also a nifty little guitar thing that goes on, something that the Hextalls also would pull off in their song “Unicorn Rider”, a song that has always reminded me of the Lillington as a whole. “Codename: Peabrain” also has two different verses, something unusual when it comes the Lillingtons.
  1. “Phantom Maggot”: Back to superheroes! “Phantom Maggot” is about a maggot who is a super hero and can disappear. It reminds me a lot of Screeching Weasel’s “Teenage Freakshow”, both melodically and because of the line “straight out of a comic book”. The last chorus sounds more like an early Beatles song and the harmonies are great. I’ve always seen the song as a defense of the underdog showing that even a maggot will become a fly and a phantom maggot will become a phantom fly and show all the maggots what he’s really made of.
  2. “Robots in My Dreams”: The “I don’t wanna go to work” theme also recurs in “Robots in My Dreams” (What is this, Clerks?) and I think it’s a much stronger song than “I Need Some Brain Damage”. The sci-fi robot theme of the song also serves as a metaphor for falling in line and becoming a robot and no longer having a sense of self. The pre-chorus goes “I’m gonna take a walk/I’m gonna leave it all behind/I gotta clear my head before you brainwash my mind”, expressing a need for human emotions in a world of robots. The chorus goes “I don’t wanna end up like the robots in my dreams”, a sore, individualistic dream to stay true to one self. The ol’ “Lillingtons add more back up vocals in the last chorus” is maybe most effective in this song. Not only are the vocal harmonies adding so much to the song, but the gang vocals singing “We’re all gonna end up like the robots in our dreams” just gives the song a sad end to it, that we’re all gonna fall in line and be another casualty of society, like some other Pop Punk band sang two years later. The song is definitely my favorite song on the album.
  3. “Murder on My Mind”: The lyrics to this song sound very metal. The music is very Ramonescore, however. Maybe even bordering on 80’s hardcore again. It actually reminds me a lot of the Norwegian band Dead Gerhardsens. The slower part of the song. The song is a horror movie song and it’s about someone escaping from the insane asylum and wanting to kill people on Halloween. Terrifying shit!
  4. “Caveman”: The 13th track “Caveman” is based on the 1981 movie with the same name starring Ringo Starr as Atouk. The song uses some of the language from the movie, like “zug zug Lana” means having sex with Lana (a woman from the movie) and eating “ool”, simply means eating food. The little guitar riff that plays the melody is also so catchy, making the song memorable. The song could also be seen as metaphorical and like “I Saw the Apeman(On the Moon)” show how primitive human beings really are and how violent we really are (“Hit you in the head with my club”) and we can ask ourselves, even with all our technology, have we really evolved from the caveman stage?
  5. “They Came from the Future”: Like “Murder on My Mind”, “They Came from the Future” is also metal inspired. Just by listening to the drums mixed with the hardcore-esque guitars makes me feel like I’ve been transported into crossover-thrash hell, but somehow it works for the song. From the title I can see that this song has to do with time travel, the chorus goes “you don’t have a clue that I was created by you!”. Which is something that puts you right into an 80’s time travel movie, where the world has gone wrong and the protagonist comes from the future to warn the people living in the present.

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I’m sure Fat Mike, to this day, still regrets not putting this classic album out. Mixing old school hardcore with Ramonescore and mixing real human themes with science fiction movies, it really stands out as a tour de force in the genre, whether we call it Horrorpunk, Pop Punk, Ramonescore or just Punk Rock. Next time I will cover Have a Ball by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

This pick shouldn’t really need an introduction, and it for the most part reminds me of how long I’ve been writing this column. …And out Come the Wolves turned twenty last year and I figured it’d be a good idea to celebrate that anniversary, but now I’m half a year late. I don’t know if there is much to say about the band, Rancid, except that they were started in Berkeley, California in 1991, by Operation Ivy (who will get their own pick in the future), Generator, Downfall and Dance Hall Crashers members Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong. Lars Frederiksen joined the band in 1994. They’ve had two drummers; Brett Reed and Brenden Steineckert, the latter being their current drummer. I remember as a kid seeing their albums in record shops, but I had no idea how they sounded like. I knew Tim from his other side project the Transplants and for doing guest vocals on Box Car Racer’s “Cat Like Thief”. When I heard “Fall Back Down” on television, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s that guy”. This was about the same time I started getting into NOFX and I would always compare the two bands, but I figured out NOFX’s “Olympia, WA” was the best song from either. Little did I know that it was a Rancid cover. The first Rancid album I bought was Life Won’t Wait in the record shop Avalanche in Edinburgh in my super punk grand tour in 2004. The second album I bought was actually Wolves, at a record store in Palma, Spain on holiday in the summer of 05. I remember playing it for my parents and I remember being excited about the album in the heat. The following fall I started to get more and more into Rancid and bought Let’s Go and Indestructible at the record store in Stavanger and bought the self-titled from 2000 in Malmö, Sweden.  It actually took me four years before buying more Rancid albums, I got Let the Dominos Fall around the time it was released  in 2009 and the self-titled from 1993 on vinyl in October the same year. I’ve always had an endless debate with myself (and others) whether their best album is Let’s Go or …And out Come the Wolves, I’m still a bit undecided, but Wolves definitely fits more for the column.

…And out Come the Wolves was released August 22 1995 on Epitaph records. It was produced by Jerry Finn and Rancid. It’s one of the first big albums that Finn produced. The album cover is a dude with a Mohawk sitting in a staircase with his head in his lap, similar to the classic Minor Threat picture (used on several releases like the self-titled compilation and the Complete Discography). It went platinum in 2004. While Green Day’s Dookie took Punk Rock to the mainstream, Rancid definitely took the “punk rock” look to the mainstream, at least in the US. Mohawks and studded jackets on MTV? Wow. The album is also quite dominated by Lars Frederiksen, and there are no songs on the album with Matt Freeman on lead vocals.

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  1. “Maxwell Murder”: I have mixed feelings about this opening track. It’s a fast and aggressive opener, and honestly a pretty good song. I definitely think it’s the weakest track on the album, and it annoys me to pieces when some technical music lover talks about how that bass solo is great. In spite of this, the lyrics are kind of weird. It seems to be about a drug dealer, and it’s using the UK emergency number rather than the American. Maybe the meaning of the song is that drug dealers may not be “Jack the Ripper”’s, but are also murderers? It could also be a reference to the Beatles’ “Maxwell Silver Hammer”. I checked songmeanings.com, people seemed to say the same thing.
  1. “The 11th Hour”: The second song, “The 11th Hour” is when the album really begins for me. The expression “the 11th hour” is describing the time right before a deadline or an important event. The song starts out like a Clash song and then there comes a little guitar lead that reminds me of the Replacements song “Nowhere Is My Home”. The lyrics, to me, are about depression and the narrator is talking to a girl, who is dealing with depression, and telling her that she is the one who can do something about her state of mind. It ends with the narrator talking about their own depression and there are references to the Specials (“Concrete Jungle”) and Elvis Costello (“My Aim Is True”). It’s also possible that the last verse is seen from the girl’s point of view. The song was co-written with Eric Dinn from the Uptones. He also co-wrote “Outta My Mind” from the first Self-titled and “Name” from Let’s Go.
  2. “Roots Radicals”: The third song, “Roots Radicals” was the first single from the album. The fantastic thing about the song is that it’s basically about riding the bus, like much of Rancid’s catalog. The song tells the story of how Lars’ life changed on this bus ride. Maybe this ride was his trip to Edinburgh, who knows? The song has lots of references to punk rock and reggae music. The chorus “Give ‘em the boot” (a pun on actual boots, and getting the boot) is also a compilation Tim’s record label Hellcat put out. The other references are to Desmond Dekker and the title is a reference to Jimmy Cliff, as well as Bunny Wailer. Ben Zanatto is a friend of Lars, who died of an overdose in 1999, he was also part of the “Skunx” movement (a mix of Skinheads and Punx). Moon stomping is a reference to Symarip great reggae song (“Skinhead Moonstomp”) about stomping to let the man on the moon hear it and it has become a popular dance for skinheads. Even with all the reggae references, the song is pretty much straight up Punk Rock. They played it live on Saturday Night Live 18th of November 1995. The single version was a different recording, as they re-recorded it for the album.
  3. “Time Bomb”: The second single was “Time Bomb”, that same as “Roots Radicals” also references reggae and Ska culture is also a Ska song. It’s probably become their most famous song. I remember it being played on motherfucking Gilmore Girls. Like “Maxwell Murder” it’s a song that has become a catchy, singalong track, but the meaning is actually quite sad. “Time Bomb” tells the tale of a kid who fits the typical stereotype of the rude boy, but he has gone through trouble all his life and he doesn’t know how to deal with the world and in the end he gets shot. The song also became a hit on the modern rock charts. It reached number 8.
  4. “Olympia, WA”: As I’ve said I used to really like the NOFX cover of  “Olympia WA” and I don’t know if I actually heard the Rancid version before I bought Wolves. I remember listening to it and thinking it sounded like a football song or a sport’s anthem. The singalong chorus always brings a smile on my face. At the time I was 15 and I remember wanting to start smoking cigarettes or other bad habits, I could hide from my parents. As much as the song might remind me a bit of hooligans starting fights with supporters from other teams (like the Business or Cockney Rejects or something), it’s actually a love song. Tim is singing about hanging out with Lars, and I interpret it as him having is heart broken or missing someone and feeling like the devil and him and Lars hang out with Puerto Rican girls at the funhouse in New York playing a lonely pinball machine. I feel like the imagery of the pinball machine shows Tim’s feelings, being in a house full of fun, but still feeling lonely. The chorus is about how he is in New York, but longing to be in Olympia, Washington. The loneliness he feels is even more present in the last two verses. The second verse ends with him watching the thousands come home from work, in the third he just concludes; “I don’t wanna be alone again”.
  1. “Lock, Step and Gone”: I would say that the five first songs of the album are all quite iconic and important in punk rock history. Then it feels alright when the sixth song isn’t that iconic, but is still quite a great song. The song has kind of a rock n’ roll feeling to it. The lyrics are also quite simple, describing a place that once had lots of stuff happening, but has no become dead.
  2. “Junkie Man”: When debating whether or not Wolves is a perfect album, everyone usually have a few songs they can’t stand on the album, “Junkie Man” is one of them, but I’ve always loved the song actually, I appreciate it more than I appreciate the bass doodlings of “Maxwell Murder”. I guess I can understand why people are annoyed with it. The song lyrics are mostly quite simple and about a junkie man and how substance abuse is ruining his life. Maybe the part that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, is the spoken word part spoken and written by poet and author Jim Caroll. I actually think it’s a pretty cool addition to the song and I love the “transistor” and “transparency” puns. I found an MTV article on Caroll’s contribution and I learned from it that they actually recorded forty songs for the album, as if nineteen wasn’t enough!
  3. “Listed M.I.A”: A catchy as hell song, that is about running away from everyone and everything and become missing in action. Not only is it catchy and groovy, it also happens to rhyme “had it”, not only with “maggots” and “faggot”, but “habit”, as well. It also namedrops Oakland, well done!
  4. “Ruby Soho”: The third single from the album was “Ruby Soho”, also quite a hit on the modern rock charts, charting at #13. According to Wikipedia it was released only two days after “Time Bomb” (on November 3). Billboard says “Time Bomb” charted in October, and “Ruby Soho” charted in January, I wonder what Wikipedia have to say in their defense! Like the two other singles, we won’t escape the reggae references in this song either. The opening line is “Echoes of reggae coming through my bedroom wall”. When I first heard the song, I thought it was kind of catchy, but silly, especially the chorus, but it’s actually a really great song. I think the lyrics are way more sophisticated than one would expect from the song title. I think the lyrics are beautiful, fragile, descriptive and even poetic. It also tells a good story from an interesting narrative and embraces two levels of loneliness. The narrator is sitting alone in their room, feeling alone listening to a break up going on at a party next door, realizing they aren’t able to do anything about it. We get to know the name of the girl (Ruby Soho), but not the dude who is leaving her. I always feel a lump in my throat every time I hear the third verse, “Her lover’s in the distance/ As she wipes a tear from her eye/ Ruby’s fading out, she disappears, it’s time,/ Time to say goodbye”. Jimmy Cliff did a cover of the song, and he won a Grammy! And Tim produced it. It’s also on both Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
  5. “Daly City Train”: Tim spent seven years battling an alcohol problem (Let’s Go’s “7 Years Down” deals with this), Lars used to have heavy drug problems as well. It seems a lot of their friends have gone in similar paths, and a lot of Rancid’s songs are used to tell the stories of these friends. “Daly City Train” is another reggae song and it also has an awesome surf-guitar. The song is about someone named Jackyl, that I’ve had trouble finding actual information on, except that he was a friend of the band (he is also mentioned in “Rats in the Hallway”). Tim describes him as an angel, and a free bird and someone who happens to be himself even in this awful world, especially in the situation he found himself in. “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night/ Other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight” These lyrics makes you think, huh?
  6. “Journey to the End of the East Bay”: I have no idea if the title is a reference to Ted Nugent, but if it is, I’ll have to ask, why? Why the fuck would anyone reference Ted Nugent? Anyways, this song is a tribute to the East Bay and Matt and Tim’s old band Operation Ivy (“Started in ’87, ended in ’89”). Like Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”, FIY also about the East Bay, it talks about both sides of the coin when it comes to the area. It also shows the dangers of romanticizing an area, as a fellow named Mattie is coming to the place from New Orleans and expects it to be a Mecca, after three months he can’t handle it anymore and goes back to the big easy.
  7. “She’s Automatic”: Is a song sung by Lars, it’s a simple little love song about new found romance. I think it’s a great little track, among all the other classic, it might seem like a filler, but I think it’s quite a good song on its own.
  8. “Old Friend”: My favorite Rancid is probably “Old Friend”, I’ve always found the song to be catchy and I’ve always loved the instrumentation in it. The song is a straight up Ska song with a rad organ. The song’s chord progression is the classic “Pop punk progression” used in Toto’s “Africa”, The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” and like every Blink-182 song. And like many of the songs I’ve talked about in this article, there is a sore and sad meaning to an otherwise catchy song. The song also uses the trope of prosopopoeia, and personifies heartache as an old friend. The protagonist is going through a break up and is lost in Cleveland full of regret and in the loss of all hope. I always get chills down my spine in the “somewhere in America” verse, because sometimes when things seem the worst, a memory from when things worked out is your only hope. In the end of the song, the protagonist also fears being robbed by people preying on someone who is already down, and almost broke, the protagonist figures that someone can rob them and take their money or their time, but their heart is already robbed and gone away.
  9. “Disorder and Disarray”: Another catchy song that don’t really stand out in the line of great songs is “Disorder and Disarray”, I have no idea what the song is about, but I often feel like it’s a reference to the Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko” because of the crucifixion. Maybe it’s another song about drugs. And it’s another song about the bus too. Public transport, yay!
  10. “The War’s End”: Another song that is mentioned as “the bad song on the album” along with “Junkie Man” is “The War’s End”, something I don’t get at all. I think it’s a fantastic song and I especially love the live version where Lars tries to make it sound like a Billy Bragg song, they also namedrop Bragg in the song. In fact, I remember Lauren from the Measure SA talked about the song on the classic Rocket to Russia show back in 2009 and also talked about “Ideology” and it made me become a huge Billy Bragg fan. Lars also covered another Bragg song “To Have and Not to Have” with his side project Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. “The War’s End” is about a young boy named Sammy who is a punk rocker and is always in a “war” with his mother, and then decides to run away.
  1. “You Don’t Care Nothin’”: The Pop Punk progression madness doesn’t stop, and neither does the Pop Punk! The lyrics to this double negative heartache fest, sound like they could be straight out of a 90’s Mutant Pop record. The song is about a lady named Jenny deMilo who doesn’t seem to care about the protagonist in the song.
  2. “As Wicked”: A song that I always found great and that also scared me at the same time is “As Wicked”, like so many songs on the record there is sadness and melancholia hidden inside the singalong punk music. The lyrics remind me of old folk lyrics like Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Come” and Tom Paxton’s “A Rumblin’ in the Land”. The narrator is observing different people of all ages, and he hears stories of loneliness, death and poverty, and all these stories adds up to the idea that something scary is about to come.
  3. “Avenues and Alleyways”: This is totally punk so there had to be an Oi! Song on the record. Oi! Is a genre that has gotten a bad rap, and is closely related to RAC and racism. Therefore, it might be important to have bands like the Oppressed and make anti-fascist Oi! Music to get away that stigma from the genre. “Avenues and Alleyways” is an Oi! Song about standing together against racism. Lars sings “He’s a different color, but we’re the same kid/ I treatedd him like my brother, he treats me like his”.
  4. “The Way I feel”: I wrote a song called “The Way I Feel” once, so I was always excited for this song, and it’s definitely one of the greatest closers in punk history. I’ve always felt there was something Irish and Pogues-esque about the song. The song is about someone moving up the social ladder and the way it affects their former friends. The best part of the song is definitely the chorus that just goes “nananananananananananananana”, sometimes the simples words are the best ones! I feel like they tried to re-write the song for Indestructible (Wolves II?) in “Otherside”.

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The album still stands as one of the strongest Punk Rock classics, probably ever and continues to inspire and I also think a lot of the PunX have somehow forgotten how neglected that it was a somewhat mainstream MTV album like they’ve done with the Sex Pistols and all those bands. Another classic we’ll be revising next time is Death by Television by The Lillingtons.

From last pick (Shelley’s Children), we are moving from Britain to Canada, from the early 90’s to the early 2000’s. We’re of course talking about Calgary’s heroes Chixdiggit. Chixdiggit started in 1991 by KJ Jansen, Mark O’Flaherty and Mike Eggermont. KJ (The Canadian Joey Ramone) was supposed to be the drummer, but became the singer and guitarist instead since he couldn’t sit still enough to play the drums, Mark played guitar as well and Mike slapped the bass (and I’m guessing KJ stretched his face). After trying out different drummers, their first permanent drummer became Jason Hirsch. Their first known demo is called “Humped” and was recorded in 1993, and includes some of their most famous songs like “I Should have Played Football in High School” and “I Wanna Hump You”, the latter went on to be on their debut self-titled full length.

The songs were basically in the same style they are known for now; pretty straight forward, upbeat, somewhat Ramones inspired Pop Punk with guitar solos and KJ’s s snotty, yet charming voice. Chixdiggit was released in 1996 on the legendary Sub Pop label. The band was turned down by Lookout Records, apparently Lookout would’ve signed them if it weren’t for the band name. After the release of their eponymous debut album, the band wasn’t happy with what Sub Pop were doing and felt it was mutual from the label, so they got out of their contract and signed to Honest Don, an offshoot’s of Fat Wreck Chords, also owned by Fat Mike. On their 1997 sophomore album, Born on the First of July (a Canadian equivalent of “Born on the Fourth of July”), they showed were they came from and quickly became the Stompin’ Tom Connors of Pop Punk. The songs were a lot longer than on the debut, but still with the same catchiness and wit. Three year later they released From Scene to Shining Scene, and five years after that they released Pink Razors, this time on Fat Wreck Chords. They also re-recorded the debut with bonus tracks and called it Chixdiggit 2. Their latest release was the EP “Safeways, Here We Come”, a play on the Smith’s Strangedays, Here We Come. “Safeways” and was released in 2011 and it actually has some of the band’s strongest material. Mark and KJ have always been in the band, but they’ve had some line-up changes when it comes to drummers and bassists.

I think the first time I heard them was when I got the Fat sampler “Rock Against Floyd” when I ordered NOFX’s “Never Trust a Hippy” in 2006. Among many of the other big Fat bands at the time, it included the Chixdiggit song “I Remember You” from Pink Razors. I liked the song a lot, even if I didn’t really check out the full album until about a year later. At the time I used to listen to a Norwegian radio called Pyro, that mostly played metal, but played some Punk/Pop Punk once in a while, and they played Chixdiggit frequently and in 2007 I started liking the band a lot. When I was in Oslo in December that year I also got Chixdiggit 2. I got From Scene to Shining Scene in 2010 and I discovered it was their best and by far most underrated album and that’s why I’m gonna write about this as the 28th Pop Punk Pick!

From Scene to Shining Scene was released on August 22, 2000 and produced by the band themselves. The album cover has the same recognizable Chixdiggit logo and a guy playing guitar, I’m guessing that’s KJ, not sure what that says about the band politics at the time, the picture was taken by Mark Gallup, but the artwork was done by Mike Eggermont. The lineup was the three original members and Dave Alcock played drums, he also played drums on Born on the First of July. The cover also says it’s produced by “Dave Alcock and Chixdiggit”. The title is a play on an expression from the patriotic song “America the Beautiful”; From sea to shining sea, meaning from coast to coast.

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  1. “My Dad vs. P.M”: The album starts off with a Pop Punk bomb exploding in your face. “My Dad vs. P.M (Paul McCartney)” is continuing the recurring Chixdiggit theme of parents and relations between them. The first two albums were highly concentrated with KJ’s lyrics about his mom and dad or someone else’s moms and dads; “Great Legs”, “Henry Rollins Is No Fun”, “Where’s Your Mom?”, “Song for “R’””, “Shadowy Bangers from a Shadowy Duplex”, “Silkome Beach, and “20 Times” all dealt with or mentioned parents in some way. “My Dad vs. P.M” can be compared to “Song for “R’” as it deals with parents’ different opinions about a person (“My dad said that every guy should get to meet a girl like you”/ “My mom said she wanted you out of the house”, but also to “Henry Rollins Is No Fun” as it is about parents’ opinion about a member of a band (“My mom says he’s no fun! Henry Rollins is no fun!”) I think the song is a nod to one of the “My dad vs your dad” scenarios, only this time with Paul McCartney. The song starts off with the narrator telling us that his mother always liked Paul the best (assumingly in the Beatles) because of the way he looked, dressed and sang “whoah ah”’s, while the his father liked the girl who sang “Delta Dawn” (Tanya Tucker). The story seems to be that Paul McCartney and animal activists mistake the father for being a scientist that makes shampoo and tests it on animals and the dad receives death threats (“We started getting death threats in the mailbox/ Milk sucks, let the animals go”), but they soon find out that they are mistaken, and the threats stop. The melody has always reminded me a bit of Teenage Bottlerocket’s “Rebound”. The Hextalls (also from Canada) wrote a song called “My Dad vs. Shania Twain” that I’m guessing is a reference to this song.
  2. “Spanish Fever”: The second track “Spanish Fever” tells the story of someone going to Spain (“Did I mention that we went to Spain?” AKA “A country that was warmer than the one I came from”). Where he meets a girl who spoke English “like a trucker” and is more interested in athletes (“She turned away and watched some Soccer man”), which of course only makes him like her more. My favorite line of the song is “I’m falling in a little deeper/ She’s been calling me a creeper”. The chorus of the song is a bit ambiguous and I’m not sure who actually got Spanish fever, but I found out what Spanish fever actually is, and contrary to the idea that it’s the same as Spanish Flu, it’s actually a cow-disease, also known as “Texas Fever” spread by the Babesia parasite. I’m guessing the song is meant figuratively. Chixdiggit made a music video for the song, and it’s one of their few videos. The song stands out due to its Spanish guitar solo.
  3. “Thursday Night”: Is as you can probably imagine from the title, a tribute to the day we know as Thursday! Just like the NOFX classic “Thank God It’s Monday” is to Monday. KJ sings enthusiastically that he lives for Thursday. The song is incredibly catchy, even if it doesn’t stand out in the masses of catchy tracks on the album. For some reason it has always reminded me of the Eurodance Pop hit “Saturday Night” by the Underdog Project because it regurgitates all the days of the week (so does the NOFX song, I guess) only to conclude with what day they like the most. I always thought it was a parody of the Underdog Project song, but it turns out the Chixdiggit song came first.
  4. “Melissa Louise”: The first song I heard on the album was “Melissa Louise” and it’s still one of my favorites, and another contender in the imaginary “classic pop punk song” competition. The song is pretty much a standard love song, but it explores a theme common in Chixdiggit’s discography: people who are different from each other that date. Pink Razor’s “Paints Her Toenails” and as we shall see later, “Sweaty and Hairless” is also about this. In “Melissa Louise” KJ sings: “girl, I’m glad you’re not exactly like me you’re as whatever as I wish I could be”, and there’s something silly about the song, but also something sweet and genuine. He compares him and Melissa to a hoof and shoe, claiming he’s not good with his analogies. The song also has a pretty cool guitar solos and the melody and the vocals make it Pop Punk at its finest.
  5. “Aromatherapy”: Is a song about, whatayaknow, aromatherapy! Thematically, I could compare it to the Mopes or Screeching Weasel’s “Squeaky Clean”. The melody has always reminded me of the other Canadian, Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”, which is a song I’ve always wanted to hear a Pop Punk version of. Maybe Chixdiggit should cover it, they could make a cover album of Canadian songs. I’d love them to try out “Sk8er Boi”, “Sisters of Mercy” and “Ironic”!
  6. “Folks Are Gone”: The mom and dad theme is back in “Folks Are Gone”. The way it seems to me is that it’s about a son coming home to his parents, even if he’s moved away somewhere else, and he wants to contact the one that got away (His mom thinks they should’ve gotten married). They both seem to have moved on with their lives, but he wants to see her for old time’s sake and listen to records, like The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band and the Groovie Ghoulies and some Billy Bragg and her copy of Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi. It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album!
  7. “Moto Foxe”: Is a little rocker about a motorcycle, I believe. The song sounds like Thin Lizzy or Kiss or something, but it’s got its charm. I remember having this song stuck in my head one day a few years ago and when I couldn’t figure out what band it was, Chixdiggit were probably the last band I thought of. It has the great line “You got me feeling like every year’s a leap year”.
  8. “Sweaty and Hairless”: Like I mentioned, “Sweaty and Hairless” is a song that deals with going out with someone different than oneself. The protagonist, a punker, I assume, seems to go out with a rave girl, like in “Rave Queen”(a gem found on Chixdiggit 2). In the end, he decides that he wants to stop raving and get into Indie Rock and wonders if Third Eye Blind is looking for a bassist. This is also the song where the title of the album comes from. Musically, I’ve always liked the harmonies in the chorus.
  9. “Going to the Peelers?”: So here’s another Pop Punk song about getting dumped, and a great one at that! The protagonist hears “their song” on the jukebox and replaces it with a song that is “a combination of Glen Campbell and Queen”. I had to look through the filthy, shameful edges of the Urban dictionary to find out what “peelers” means, and it turns out it’s a strip club. It’s the one place he knew she wouldn’t be. A really catchy song that I tend to forget in a bundle of catchy tunes.
  10. “Summer Please”: Every Pop Punk album needs a summer anthem, well, every Canadian Pop Punk album, at least! This type of song might be one of my favorite type of songs, when a year (1998 for this song) is mentioned, I’m already sold on the song. There is a chilling nostalgia in this cheery, warm summer song as the narrator looks back on hanging out with Miss Earth day and wanting to revisit that moment in time. A time when everything seemed perfect and even shitty things felt cool (“I hate parades, but I didn’t that day”). The melody is also, probably, the strongest on the album, I absolutely love this track, and it makes me feel like I’m KJ, or whoever the song is about.
  11. “Born in Toulouse”: Before I bought the album, I also thought the name of this song was “Born Toulouse” ( a pun on “Born to Lose”), but as soon as I bought the album, I figured out I was wrong. I always wondered who this song was written about, I figured now was a time to do some research. I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be about Nathalie Perrin from the 90’s, French, Punk band Greedy Guts. The song is KJ showing his admiration for Perrin and perhaps also subtly criticizing the sexism of music journalism (“All the press had to say was that French girls couldn’t rock, but I knew they were wrong about you”). When I think about it, this is a quite geographical album. In “Spanish Fever”, they go to Spain, in “Sweaty and Hairless”, they walk through the English country and in this one KJ travels to the South of France, not bad for a Pop Punk album! Going even further than from sea to shining sea and from scene to shining scene!

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I’m not sure if anyone in Chixdiggit is going to read this shit, but if you do; Please make that Canadian cover album, I would love to hear you cover that Shania Twain song! Or maybe “Bud the Spud”. I remember in 2014, I made some anniversary articles like the 20th for Punk in Drublic, I was too late for the next pick that is …And out Come the Wolves, oh well.

 

I gotta admit, I am sort of embarrassed. Until now in this column that is almost two years old, I still haven’t talked about a female fronted band. And except for Michelle Shirelle from the Steinways and Heather Tabor from Teen Idols, the bands have been all dudes. I could say that in my defense that half of my “Records of the Year” list is made up of female fronted bands, but that would just be a lame excuse. I figured it was time to do something about this. So the band I’m going to write about in this article will be the great British band Shelley’s Children. Shelley’s Children played catchy Pop Punk, sometimes with anarchic and feminist political lyrics, but also love songs and they also touched on personal topics. They also did a lot of covers, especially from the 50’s/60’s era, and that’s where they’ve taken most of their musical inspiration from. They are probably one of the greatest, hidden secrets that Punk or Pop music have to offer. Like so many bands, I first came aware of them from the Pop Punk Message Board and I was blown away right away, even if I waited two years (2012 to 2014) to order the Everything compilation. The band formed in Reading in the late 80’s and they had several members in their relatively short-lived career. The internet is quite slim when it comes to finding Shelley’s Children trivia, and most of the time the band members are only mentioned with first names (as well as in the album liner notes), so I hope the names are correct! Early on Tracey Curtis and Coral shared vocal duties, Greg and Neil played the guitar, Martyn Oakland played the bass and Wig played drums. Imogen Gunner joined the group later on violin, and later Steph joined on vocals together with Coral. After they split up in 1991 a couple of the band’s members formed, a new band called CuckooLand and Tracy Curtis released new material in the new millennium as a Folk singer and made the beautiful, satirical Folk Pop sensation, “The Vegan Police”, a piss-take aimed at the “vegan police” seen from a vegan point of view. She released the album Thoughts in the Dark in 2013.

This article will be a little different from earlier ones as Shelley’s Children never put out a full-length album, but two mini-albums (Everytown might be seen as an EP), so I’m going to write about both of them; The Mask of Anarchy and Everytown! The former was released in 1990; the latter in 1991 and both were released on the label Peasant’s Revolt, the band’s label, named after an uprising in England in the 14th century. The Mask of Anarchy is a reference to a pacifist poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley written in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. Shelley was married to the great Mary Shelley, who wrote the gothic masterpiece Frankenstein. The name of the record makes it obvious that the band name and their anarchic ideology has established my view that the band took their name after Shelley, being not the offspring of the Shelleys biologically, but ideologically. The album cover is black with a yellow mask that in many ways resembles a child-like image of the modern perception of the Frankenstein monster, making the cover symbolically honor both the band’s “parents”. A fun fact that I found is that the vinyl version of the record supposedly makes it so that the A-side should be played at 45 RPM and the B-side at 33 1/3. The Everytown cover is a picture of a little boy, probably another reference to the band name (children). The compilation Everything has the same cover as Everytown, and was released on Damage Goods in 2005 with demoes and goodies.

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“The Mask of Anarchy”

  1. “Doesn’t Matter”: The record starts off with a classic Pop Punk song called “Doesn’t Matter”, it’s damn catchy and the two lead vocals go together very well. I couldn’t find the lyrics to any of these songs, except the covers, so I tried to transcribe them. “Doesn’t Matter” was difficult to make out most of the time. It seems like a pretty standard love song. One of my favorite parts is the pre-chorus that goes “Sometimes I wish that I could bury my head in the sand”, the bridge is also really melodic and spreads joy into your heart like a puppy eating cotton candy at a barbecue.
  2. “Fair Enough”: The second song “Fair Enough” makes a departure from the Pop Punk sound and goes into a more Indie oriented sound with a New Wave-ish bassline. The melody reminds me a bit of The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me”. Maybe Brandon Flowers is a fan, or it’s just a coincidence. The lyrics are a bit confusing, the verses consists of someone (we) apologizing, and the chorus is someone else (I) apologizing. The “I” person seems to be a bit more sincere (“I didn’t mean it to sound like that, but if it did I apologize”. While the “we” people seem more like hipsters who wants to put their judgement on someone else’s intellectual capacity and if they don’t like it then, “Fair enough”(“We want to know the number of the books you’ve read if you don’t mind, what we may find, fair enough”). It sounds like a nonsensical conversation of people being sorry for not being sorry. DJ-legend John Peel apparently played the song on his show on the BBC on the 11th of June 1990.
  3. “Elvis Says”: And the hits continue! “Elvis Says” starts up with an acoustic guitar playing a catchy three chord into, until the bass jumps in the third time, waiting for the electric guitar, drums and vocals to make their arrival. From there it’s slow paced Pop Punk all the way. I’m always baffled why none of these songs were major hits or got more recognition than they did. This would have been a top 20 in a just world. The song is sung from the point of view of someone who’s afraid their significant other is cheating on them (“Every time you call me on the telephone, I wonder who’s there in your flat with you”). It’s unclear whether the suspicions are unwarranted or if there are pre-existing episodes that the listener is not aware of that make the protagonist’s worries legitimate. The chorus references Elvis Presley songs (hence the title) like “All Shook up”, “I Just Can’t Help Believing”, “That’s All Right Mama” and “Love Me Tender” in which the protagonist tries to use Elvis to get the potential cheater to end their faulty ways.
  4. “Circle Line”: One of the most Pop Punk sounding songs is definitely “Circle Line”, it’s catchy, fast and clever and has a two string guitar riff. The bassline in the chorus also sounds Pop Punk as fuck! The Circle Line is a service that runs in the London Underground network. The peculiar thing about the line is that it goes around and around. The song describes someone sitting on a bus stop waiting for bus nr, 49 (that runs in the middle of London) and thinking of, what most likely is, their significant other on the other side of town who’s looking for a job in the classifieds. The song talks about the general problem of communication, both in a relationship and in the world at large. The Circle Line is used as a metaphor for broken communication that is a circle that never stops (“The talk goes on and on and on again”). The first verse explores the communicational issues in a relationship that isn’t going too well (“We don’t say much to each other anymore, we don’t say anything at all”). The second verse seems to be more about general communication when it comes to public transport, the protagonist wants someone to talk to, but there isn’t anyone, and claims, “And I don’t have all the answers, sometimes I don’t even know the question”. The Circle Line metaphor gives a bleak, almost Beckettian image of repetition and every day being the same. And the sad conclusion to the song is somewhat contradictory to the metaphor: “We’ve reached the end of the line”
  1. “Ginny Come Lately”: Even if the band wrote superb original material, they also did some really good covers and “Ginny Come Lately” is one of them. American 60’s Pop singer Brian Hyland, famous for “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and “Sealed with a Kiss”, sings the original. Shelley’s Children’s version would probably be on my list of best covers ever, it’s pretty much perfectly done. Not only are the regular instruments and vocals Pop music at its best, but the handclaps and tambourine in the choruses just adds delicious details to a gourmet musical meal. The band also always sing the original lyrics to the songs they cover and never change the pronouns. The song is a cute little story about newfound love at first sight. I just found out that a Ginny is an attractive, lovable and kindhearted woman, but can also be used as derogatory term for Italians. I’m guessing the song is about the former.
  2. “Wedding Bells”: The love at first sight serenades didn’t stop with “Ginny Come Lately” and “Wedding Bells” is a Shelley’s Children original and expresses seeing someone for the first time and immediately knowing they are the one. The song uses wedding bells as an image for the feeling related to this kind of infatuation where you just by looking at someone know that they make you happy (“Thinking of you makes me feel good”) and that you will get married and live happily ever after. The chorus goes; “Whoah ah those wedding bells, wedding bells are ringing in our ears/Whoah ah those wedding bells and we our vows in front of God”. The song has actual church bells and opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”. The guitar solo is also a 60’s inspired solo that sounds like it comes straight from the British invasion.
  3. “Born too Late”: When I ordered the Everything CD I did not only get to hear brilliant original Pop Punk and Indie Rock tracks, but I also came aware of new groups and artist that were lustrously covered by Shelley’s Children. “Born too Late” is a 50’s Doo Wop hit recorded by the group the Poni-Tails in 1958. The Poni-Tails were an all-female Pop/Doo Wop group in the late 50’s. Except the song “Que la Bozena”, which the group penned themselves, the songs were usually written by old men and most of the songs were dealing with teenage trouble, and a lot of the songs were about older men (especially “Born too Late”). Reading about the group made me baffled, teenage girls with ponytails singing songs written by old men about older men, just made me realize how messed up the 50’s were. Then I was reminded about Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and there really isn’t much of a difference, is there? The bottom line is that the Poni-Tails’ somewhat short discography is pretty amazing and most of the songs are wonderful Pop songs (and the songs “Father Time” and “Early to Bed” weren’t as creepy as the titles suggested). The Shelley’s Children cover is great too and feels a bit less creepy. The cover also appeared on the comp Fuck EMI from 1989, which was an Indie, metal and Punk comp with covers of Pop songs. Chumbawamba’s cover of “Heartbreak Hotel” and Snuff’s cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” were also on the comp. Shelley’s Children were listed as “Whothehell” on the comp, similar to The Four Season, who called themselves The Wonder Who? when they covered Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” in 1964.
  4. “Rawfolds”: The only really standout political song on the record is “Rawfolds”. The song is also a very classic Pop Punk song and the lead guitar sounds like something straight out of a Screeching Weasel record, and The Mask of Anarchy was released before My Brian Hurts. It starts up with “Listen to the tale I have to tell”, almost like an old Woody Guthrie-esque Folk ballad. The song seems to be about an attack on a mill known as the Rawfolds mill in 1812. The attack was done as a protest, by Luddites, followers of weaver Nedd Ludd, against the industrial revolution and modern machinery. The first chorus states “the machinery we suffer from will probably terminate in war, or something more”, while the last chorus concludes that the machinery will probably just go on and on and on, which resembles “Circle Line” in many ways(“The talk goes on and on and on again”). So, in that manner, the record ends with a repetition and the idea that things will just repeat itself.

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“Everytown”:

  1. “Everytown”: The first time I heard the band was in 2012, I had just finished my English Bachelor’s degree and written a thesis on Shelley (Percy) and the romantic imagination and madness. I was reading John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent and listening to Bob Dylan a lot. And hearing a band called Shelley’s Children reference the winter of our discontent and Bob Dylan (the times they are a-changing in every town) was interesting at the time. Of course, “the winter of our discontent” in the Steinbeck book is a Shakespeare reference. There’s also an Elvis reference in the song (“Someone’s playing Elvis on the radio, but do they mean it?”) The chorus of the song is really touching and somewhat sad: “You Didn’t have to say a word, I could see it in your face/This is the winter of our discontent and tomorrow is just another day…the first of May”. The feeling of something that used to mean a lot suddenly doesn’t mean much anymore. Whether it’s about a relationship (the first of May could be a special day) or political activism (May Day). An old review of the EP says the song is about the Hungarian revolution in 1956, but there’s not much in the lyrics that to me emphasizes that. One of the best lines of the song is in the bridge “Chains of hatred breed and fear/and the faithful still quote the bible and the resolution and the revolution stops“. I’ve tried to find out what the title means, but all I can find is that it might be a Robin Hood reference. Musically, It’s basically a perfect Pop Punk song and I still think it’s the band’s best track.
  2. “Jack”: Even if she had left the band Tracy still sang guest vocals on “Jack”, which is made up of references to two old British nursery rhymes found in the Roud Folk Song Index: “Jack and Jill” and “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” The song centers on siblings Jack and Jill and reflects on gender roles and how children turn out when they get grow up. Jill is the apple of her father’s eyes and does housework, while Jack tries to be tough and “the typical boy”, Jill is now happily married and it seems Jack is messing up in life hanging out with the wrong people. The chorus goes “Oh Jack, will you ever see the error of your ways? Be more like your sister”. The nursery rhyme sound to the song gives it a childlike feel and it fits the theme of the song perfectly.
  3. “Waiting for the Weekend”: Shelley’s Children’s most serious and heartbreaking song (at least on these two EP’s) is definitely “Waiting for the Weekend”. The song is about domestic violence and is about an abusive husband that beats his wife. The first line of the song is “Falling down stairs and walking into doors”, which are excuses she makes up to hide the fact that she gets abused by her husband, she also wears sunglasses in autumn and she always tries to excuse his actions (“It’s only when he’s drunk, it’s only when he’s lost control”. The song is incredibly poppy and catchy, which is weird knowing the lyrical subject. They also did a slower, prettier indie-esque song on the same subject called “Face in the Crowd”, that’s a great song too! “Waiting for the Weekend” ends with a Folk/Country inspired part that’s seen from daughter having watched her mother get beaten’s point of view and how it’s affected her view of relationships: “I don’t wanna play house, I know it can’t be fun/ I’ve watched mummy and daddy/ If that’s the way it’s done/ I don’t wanna play house, my mother said goodbye/ Cuz when she played house/ My daddy made her cry”. It’s the most heartbreaking part of the song, because it also shows domestic violence also hurt children. “I don’t wanna play house” is most likely another Elvis reference (Like in “Elvis Says” and “Everytown”) “Baby, Let’s Play House” is a song by Arthur Gunter that Elvis covered.

Bonus: “Summerlove Sensation“: As a bonus track I’ve added their cover of “Summerlove Sensation” that appeared on a compilation released by Peasant’s revolt. The comp was called Greatest Hits: A Benefit for the Trafalgar Square Defence and supported the Trafalgar Square riots against the new Poll Tax introduced by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The tax was a fixed tax payment every adult paid to their local authorities and replaced the old tax system where property owners paid tax rates by the value of their homes. The album cover is a written political statement rather than a picture or regular cover art. In spite of the album being severely politically charged, Shelley’s Children covered a Bay City Rollers song. The song is about a summer flirt and the cover is Pop music at its finest. The cover also shows that political activism and shameless, sugary Pop music are not mutually exclusive and destroys the boundary between anarchic, political Punk rock and mainstream Pop music without breaking into the mainstream itself. The compilation was also, like mentioned earlier, released on the Peasant’s Revolt label, and the riots themselves were often compared to the 14th century uprising. The actual Poll Tax were a disaster and eventually lead to the end of an over ten year Tory reign in the UK.

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I’d like to say that I really recommend and encourage everyone to check this band out or get the Everything collection from somewhere, because it’s one of the most underrated and wonderful released that exist. From a female fronted band, I will in the next article talk about a band that females like, apparently: From Scene to Shining Scene by Chixdiggit.

I think this column has gotten to the point where the genre ‘Pop Punk’ doesn’t really mean anything anymore and I just ramble on about my favorite records, partly anyway. It’s going to be hard to explain why I would classify the Replacements’ classic, Tim, as a Pop Punk album. It does of course take the punk sound from their earlier records, mixing it with classic pop tunes and the sort of College Rock they moved on to on Let It Be. The Mats were formed in Minneapolis in 1979 by the brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson, the band was later joined by drummer Chris Mars and singer Paul Westerberg. Their first album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, released in 1981, was a pretty standard Hardcore/Punk album and gave the world a preview of Westerberg’s raspy voice. A voice that has had an obvious direct or indirect influence on bands like Jawbreaker, Latterman and Billy Raygun, so we are getting closer to Pop Punk now at least. The band had always flirted with a Country/Folk sound with songs like “If Only You Were Lonely” and “You’re Getting Married”, but it was on their sophomore record, Hootenanny, they started mixing the Punk roots they never really admitted to having with a more college rock sound, whatever that is, and in spite of the album’s title, which is a reference to a Folk tradition in the neo-Folk scene in the 50’s and 60’s, it might be their album with the least influences from Folk music. As I’ve said Let It Be went full on College Rock and in many ways tried to imitate the classic rock bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and they even did a cover of Kiss’s “Black Diamond”. This influence from classic rock can also be seen in the album title, that is a reference to the Beatles album and song of the same name, this can later be seen on Pleased to Meet Me, that is a reference to the Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”. Tim is to me the most interesting and diverse album, but also the album where Westerberg shines the most as a songwriter.

Tim was released in October, 1985 on Sire Records, it was their major label debut. It’s also probably their weirdest album cover. Most of the album cover is black and white and is kind of a creepy hall. The upper part of the cover is pink and viewing it upside down you can see a weird face and viewing it normally you can see someone playing the guitar and someone else holding their hand up. The album was produced by Tommy Ramone and like I said before expanded the College Rock sound from Let It Be and took the Punk sound of the older days and mixed in Classic Rock and Pop music. It peaked at nr. 183 on the Billboard album chart.
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1. “Hold My Life”: The first song on the album has rather strange lyrics, where the verses make very little sense, but are weirdly poetic and beautiful. The lyrics of the song base on clever rhyming and punnery in the way that Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello had done before and that Dr. Frank and Billie Joe Armstrong would do later. The line “Crack up in the sun/ Lose it in the shade” is pretty good, a lot of the song’s lyrics are based on the ambiguity of “losing it”. The metaphor or idiom “losing it” comes from taking the literal act of losing something that you can actually hold and the idiom means that you are losing control, something that is not of substance, but an abstract concept. Ironically, so is life itself, so the title saying “Hold My Life” is not actually possible and actually makes an incredibly beautiful image of needing someone to hold your life, because you might lose it, “lose it” could here both refer to losing your life, or “losing it” in general, meaning; losing control. The “Razzle-dazzle-razzle-droll” part comes from the rhyme “Razzle-dazzle” which means something that shows brilliance. There’s also a chance that the line is also a tribute to the Hanoi Rocks drummer nicknamed Razzle that died the previous year. Musically, the song starts up like a pretty standard Rock song, but the chorus shows brilliant Pop-sensibilities and the little, simple riff when Westerberg sings “Cuz I just might lose it” is the best part of the song!

2. “I’ll Buy”: is an OK that just fills the gap between “Hold My Life” and “Kiss Me on the Bus”. It continues the wordplay of “Hold My Life” and has lots of pop-cultural references. “Give my regards to Broadway” is a reference to a classic show tune of the same name, that also was referenced in Paul McCartney’s “Give My Regards to Broad Street” a few years earlier. The song seems to be about someone driving a car and wanting to get laid. Westerberg also sings “Movies are for retards, like me and Maybelline”, which is a reference to Chuck Berry’s breakthrough hit. Some of the puns in the song: “Don’t wanna get pop, find yourself a rockin’ chair” and “Never get passed the dice dear, goddammit, I’m gonna roll”.

3. “Kiss Me on the Bus”: Many of the songs on Tim have been said to be inspired by other bands, “Kiss Me on the Bus” is said to be influenced by Nick Lowe and it is indeed a super catchy Power Pop track. There is something quite melancholic, but also youthful about the song. The song is about wanting to be kissed on the bus, but the other person seems a bit more shy about this than the narrator. In the chorus Westerberg sings “If you knew how I felt now, you wouldn’t act so adult now” and brings the feeling of youth into the song and you almost get the feeling that the two characters on the bus are teenagers. The guitar solo and handclaps are wonderful and the production is marvelous. As always the tambourine plays an important role and makes the song so much better. A real fucking classic there! Sugar sweet and swinging!

4. “Dose of Thunder”: Like “I’ll Buy”, “Dose of Thunder” is closer to the more Hard Rock-esque songs on Let It Be. The lyrics are really nothing special and neither is the music, this feels like listening to Kiss or some shit. It’s not awul, but compared to the classics on the album it really falls short. It has the weird lyrics “Gimme gimme in a hurry/Texas added to Missouri”

5. “Waitress in the Sky”: Is a standard Rock n’ roll song that is somewhat slow-paced, but catchy. It bears a huge resemblance to Harold Dorman’s 1960 hit “Mountain of Love”. The song is about a protagonist on a plane who is making demeaning comments about a fly attendant, claiming she is just a waitress in the sky and he is tired of me being treated as a bum. The protagonist tries to play the role of the rebel, he sees a sign that says “Thank you very much for not smoking” and has his own sign that says “I’m sorry I’m smoking” in the bridge, this is poking fun at politeness often shown in commands when they really rhetorically express authority. The song is often accused of sexism and misogyny and I think I read once that Westerberg said he liked the song in spite of its misogyny, but he also said in an Uncut interview that the song is from the experience of his sister being a fly attendant and being treated like shit and him playing the role of the asshole. (I think he put it a different way though).

6. “Swingin’ Party”: I think “Swingin’ Party” is the best song on the album and one of the most outstanding musical and lyrical pieces ever made. The music is mellow and slow and gives a feeling of comfort and melancholy. The lyrics gives new meaning to our conception of a party and some shiny little metaphors. My favorite part of the song might be the second verse: “On the prairie pavement Losing proposition/ Quitting school and going to work And never going fishing/ Water all around/ Never learn how to swim now” I feel like this could be a reference to our at least have similarities with Coleridge’s epic poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner (“Water, water everywhere”) where water could be seen as a metaphor for opportunity, but when you see water all around you’ll never learn to swim and you’ll never learn to embrace the opportunities. Westerberg also sings “if being alone is a crime I’m serving forever” and “if being afraid is a crime everyone hangs side by side at the swinging party”, this shows an ambiguity that this party both holds suffering and togetherness and it shows how depression and anxiety can bring people together as much as it can separate them. In the documentary about the Replacements called “Color Me Obsessed”, that of course includes no music by the band, they described the band as where the outcasts could go to fit in because the Mats were the band where those who didn’t fit in anywhere else could be together, and the song could be a proper description of that, but also relates to the human condition in general. The lampshade in the song is a metaphor or a substitute for drugs and alcohol and he sings “Bring your own lampshade” or “Pass around the lampshade”, which are references to the idioms “bring your own beer” and “pass around the weed”.

7. “Bastards of Young”: The next track “Bastards of Young” continues the outsider theme, but in a more upbeat anthemic way. The song is maybe the most famous song from the album and the band’s biggest hit along with “Can’t Hardly Wait”. The song is incredibly catchy and will probably make you sing along to the chorus, even if most people get the lyrics wrong, I’m sure Westerberg sings “Wait on the sons of no one” (whatever the hell that means) and most people think it’s “We are the sons of no one”. The song has a way of gathering the outcasts and I feel like the line “Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled” continues the theme from “Swingin’ Party”: “Quitting school and going to work and never going fishin’”. I always heard that they name of bunch of rock n’ roll legends in the song (Pete Townsend, Waylon Jennings, Willy and Nelson), but reading the lyrics the only one I only see Elvis, who had been in the ground for seven years. The third verse always gives me chills, because it’s so painfully true and it’s just so well written: “The ones who love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest/ And visit their graves on holidays at best/ The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please/ If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them”, that’s poetry, maaan. Musically, the song has always reminded me of the Clash and there is definitely something really Clashing about the ending. The band made a music video for the song that is just someone putting on the record and listening to it while smoking in black and white, I think they made similar videos for other songs on the album as well. The video shows how minimalistic a music video can be in a world full of Peter Gabriel and Aha. Even the Severys Snape of Punk Rock Ben Weasel said he liked the video in an Alternative Press interview, in spite of often showing dissatisfaction with the rest of the band’s work.

8. “Lay It Down Clown”: Another, and the last of the more Hard Rock songs on the album and a pretty alright one at that. The opening line: “Got a big switchblade, drop drop bill a tease” sounds like a Masked Intruder line. I don’t know if “I finally found out which way the wind blows” is a Bob Dylan reference, maybe Westerberg just didn’t need a weatherman either, maybe he didn’t even need Dylan.

9. “Left of the Dial”: Another song that has become a classic on the album is “Left of the Dial” an ode to College radio. The song starts up very upbeat, but turns into more of a ballad. The song is about finding an unknown band, it could be a reference to a fan finding out about the Replacements themselves, or the band members finding other bands. The title refers to college stations being on the left side of the radio dial, there’s also a kind a clever reference to the old Union hymn “Which Side Are You On?” when he asks “what side are you on?”, but here he refers to which side of the dial, it seems. Westerberg told Uncut about college radio and said “as that’s where all our airplay came from, and it was colleges where we used to play. The irony that four guys, none of whom had a high school diploma, would play every college in America – ridiculous. It never dawned on us that the kids had to go study for their tests next day. So we ended up going to college in an odd kind of way.” After all the influence and inspiration the band has gotten from others, they also got some respect back. The highly respected rockers Good Charlotte made a little homage to the song in their song “Change” when they go on and on and on.

10 “Little Mascara”: It’s not only Good Charlotte of the modern Pop Punk icons that have been inspired by the Mats, it’s probably Green Day’s biggest reference point. Blink-182 also took a lot of inspiration from them, and I like to think that their broken home hit “Stay Together for the Kids” is a reference to the song “Little Mascara” when Westerberg sings “For the kids you stay together”. It doesn’t have much to do with “Stay Together for the Kids” though and the lyrics seem more like the Blink song “Emo” if anything. The lyrics comes from a first person narrative singing about a “you” who has been left, we can somehow assume that “you” is a woman, but like “Androgynous” from Let It Be shows us, we can’t be sure! Westerberg makes some really great images in the song and some of the words will probably make any lyricist incredibly be jealous wishing they were the ones that wrote it, especially concerning how simple it really is. The chorus goes “All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya/All you’re ever losing is a little mascara” meaning even if she cries for the man who left her, he wasn’t really a loss and all she loses is the mascara from crying. Musically, this song also sounds a lot like the Clash and it’s all in all a very powerful song!

11. “Here Comes a Regular”: The album ends with another ballad, and another song about outcasts, this time the setting is a bar with drunks. There are some wonderful lines in this song too and the song, like “Swingin’ Party” is both really depressing and somewhat uplifting at the same time. And also so easily relatable, even if you aren’t a drunk. I do wonder if Westerberg had watched a lot of “Cheers” when he wrote this song. The song describes the seasons changing and life changing. The line “I used to live at home, now I stay at the house” has been relatable to me ever since I moved away from my parents’ and I don’t even know if it means what I think it means, but with the fridge line before it, it’s perfect. A lot of images pop up in my mind when I hear the song, I can imagine the regular coming into the bar asking “Am I the only one who feels ashamed?”, I can imagine a drinking buddy in the arms of someone’s baby. The line “The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts” is a treasure too. Melodically, the song sounds a bit like Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, but I don’t think they sound similar listening to them next to each other. There’s also a great piano by the end that makes ends this classic album perfectly.
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So is the album Pop Punk? Probably not, is it a classic? Yes! It’s probably one of the albums that relates most to the outsider and the outcast of the world! And it definitely has stood the test of time, and has everything from Folk music, to Hard rock, to Pop Punk to Power Pop, College Rock and Ballads. There’s no album that could replace it! The next article will be about the band Shelley’s Children hidden treasures “Everytown” and “Mask of Anarchy”.

The first time I heard of Alkaline Trio was when I saw in fucking Kerrang that they were going to put out a new album in 2003. My first thought was that they looked like Blink! I thought Dan looked like Travis, Derek looked like Mark and Matt looked like Tom! And look what’s happened? I remember hearing “Private Eye” shortly after that and they were also on the David Letterman show. I didn’t really start getting into them before Crimson, about when it came out, and it took me two more years to buy From Here to Infirmary. And then I would go on to go through a “Alk3-phase”. The band was formed in 1996 in McHenry, Illinois, sixty miles north of Chicago, it seems. The original members were Matt Skiba, Glenn Porter and Rob Doran. Skiba had formerly played in Jerkwater, the Traitors and Blunt. Porter had played in 88 Fingers Louie. When Doran quit, Dan Andriano, who had played in Tuesday and Brendan Kelly’s ska-punk band Slapstick replaced him in 1997. The band had then recorded their “Sundials” EP and a demo. Goddamnit was their debut album on Asian Man Records. Their sophomore album Maybe I’ll Catch Fire was also released on Asian Man. Their radio success came with From Here to Infirmary that was released on Vagrant. After that the band has continued to release hits after hits, and I unfortunately feel like they start to rip themselves off more and more after each release.

Goddamnit was released on October 13, 1998 on Asian Man. The album cover is three alarm clocks, and all of them are showing the time 6:00, meaning 666, the number of the beast from the 13:15–18 of Book of Revelations. This seems to be the start of Skiba’s infatuation and flirtation with Satanism and the Church of Satan. The band was produced by the band themselves and Matt Allison, who also produced their album from 2010 This Addiction. I would consider this album one of the best debuts ever made.
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1. “Cringe”: I bought this album, like so many others, in Scotland. It was in Edinburgh in 2008 and I bought the 10th anniversary edition with “Redux” as bonus tracks and a DVD about the album called “Original Sin”. I saw the DVD before I heard the album. When I first put on “Cringe” I was stoked and thought it sounded different from their later works, but still really great, and little did I know that the rest of the album would turn out to be even better. This was in the middle of my aforementioned “Alk-3 phase”. The song has the strong line “Even Christ himself would cringe at the sight of your scars”.

2. “Cop”: Every Punk Rock band needs an anti-cop song! And “Cop” is Alkaline Trio’s. The song tells the tale of someone who has been accused of a crime, seemingly innocent, who blames the police officer, something that has turned into an obsession. Skiba sings that after the court date, the imprisonment and the jailbreak, the accused’s obsession with the police officer will be over. Like Screeching Weasel’s “Police Insanity”, “Cop” portrays police officers as people with inferiority complexes who take their own problems out on innocent people or criminals, for that matter. Both are seen in a pseudo-psychoanalytical way, that these complexes traces back to the officers’ childhoods and that bullying both in childhood and as adult have caused these complexes that result in abuse of power.

3. “San Francisco”: Skiba said in the DVD that came with the re-issue that “San Francisco” was about visiting a friend in California and he flew from Chicago to San Francisco. The song goes into a bit more emotional depth than the former songs. I’m pretty sure the song describes the fear of flying, even if it could go deeper, like the fear and anxiety related to the trip itself. There are plenty of images and metaphors that helps us see the fear that is being felt in the song. The airline is being referred to as “Hellbound”, the seat is compared to an electric chair and Skiba’s heart is in the bay, most likely referring to the San Francisco bay. The beer price also goes up by the other hour, something that anguishes Skiba as he is using alcohol to cope with the anxiety in the song. There’s also an underlying love story: it seems that a lover is being left behind in Chicago, and the biggest fear of the song is “if I don’t return to you”. The Chicago/San Francisco connection is repeated in “Mercy Me” on Crimson.

4. “Nose over Tail”: Is a straight up love song. The first line of the song is the brilliant “Crack my head open on your kitchen floor, to prove to you that I’ve got brains”, smart move that! The infatuation of the protagonist is described by using similes and metaphors such as the girl being a plane-crash that never hits the ground and that she’s a sound of sirens to a house on fire and she’s saving him. He also seems to fake a seizure to get CPR from here, which is kind of weird. I’m guessing “Nose over tail” is just another way of saying “Head over heels”.

5. “As You Were”: Another love song, sort of, this time with the encouraging line: “You’re better off getting away while you still can”. Skiba continues with the similes, like “Put down like a teenager’s first drink” and “ Put down like a prostitute in court/Like my sanity, like my thoughts of you“, in fact most of the lines in the song are similes. There’s a sense of guilt and schadenfreude in the song, the protagonist’s better half is praying for the “you” person to fall, and feeds on her misfortunes. It’s interesting to imagine who the “you” person is and who the better half is. There’s a chance alcohol is his better half. Skiba has said the song is when he was drinking heavily and about the how he felt when he was sober.

6. “Enjoy Your Day”: The first acoustic song on the album and the first Dan song “Enjoy Your Day” is one of the most hated songs I can think of and I have no idea why. I always found the song to sound really honest and it’s a fine song. I don’t think it’s the best song on the album, but I always liked it a lot. The “I hope he bought you roses” is cringe-worthy and bitter, and that to me is what makes it great in an almost uncomfortable way.

7. “Clavicle”: In 2011 the band released an acoustic album with re-recorded acoustic tracks and a couple of new songs and a Violent Femmes cover, the album was called Damnesia. The re-recording of “Clavicle” was made into a music video promoting the album. The re-recording might even be better than the original one and I think the original might be my favorite on the album. The song is a classic infatuation song. The song describes six months where the protagonist dreads talking to the girl he is in love with. He makes a somewhat creepy reference to cannibalism describing the first time he sees her: “I saw what looked like really good food, then I saw you and so did you”. In the chorus, he serenades his desire to wake up next to her and kiss the curve of her clavicle, her collarbone. I used to think it was “curb” which I liked better. In the second verse he actually talks to her and gets her number and vice versa and he is tormented by waiting for her to call him.

8. “My Little Needle”: On the title track on the album This Addiction Skiba sings about love as an addiction and uses drugs as a metaphor for love. “My Little Needle” seems like pretty much the same idea. Dan said on the DVD that he thought that Matt is way more clever and insightful for the song to be about heroin. Most likely the opening lines of the song is from the person the protagonist sings about, saying that they’ll get him high and sing him a lullaby. The second verse is sung from the point of view of the protagonist and he poetically describes how this love has got him to get drunk and vomit every night. There’s an overall description of the protagonist’s life that makes him out to be a bum: that he has become that way because of love rather than drugs. He trades his bike for a shopping cart and begs for change. I’m sure this could all be seen metaphorically. The song is interesting as it bases on a pun. Matt sings “The stack has been burned away”, this could refer to a stack of drugs or to a haystack. The needle can then both be the needle in the syringe or the needle in the haystack and referring to the idiom “finding the needle in the haystack”, and in this case the protagonist has found the one, as the stack has burned away. He also claimed that between the moon and him lunacy is setting in. This could also be seen as a pun as the word “lunacy” stems from the Latin word for moon: “luna”, and the word lunacy means “moon-struck”. Musically, the song sounds great and the melody is really sweet and the harmonies from Dan really make the song.

9. “Southern Rock”: It could also be argued that “Southern Rock” is about drugs, and it makes a lot of sense. To me it seems like the song is about the fear of death and a memento mori-esque awareness that we will all die. This is also the song where Satanism really comes into play. Skiba sings that heaven is falling and that fallen angels have flown away. Fallen angels is not a term used in the bible, but the idea stems from there. In the context of the song I feel like he just means souls that will go to hell, rather than actual fallen angels, and he is aware that it will be him some day. It’s a horrifically relatable as we are all aware of our mortality, some even say it’s the only thing we are completely certain of. The first verse starts with a surprised realization that he is still alive because his heart beats, the second he is more frightened that it actually stopped beating and that “playing this game” caused him to almost die. The song is maybe the slowest on the album, maybe even including the acoustic tracks. The genre is still not “Southern Rock”, but the title here is also ambiguous, because “South” here both refers to the southern states of the US and to Hell.

10. “Message from Kathleen”: While I always loved “Enjoy Your Day” when it was hated I really never got into the Andriano track people seem to love until maybe two years ago, and now it actually is one of my favorites on the album. It’s just so different from Matt’s songs and the intensity of Dan’s vocals are still has present as on “Enjoy Your Day” if not even more. It’s also got one of my favorite lines on the album: “Then I’ll come faster than I ever thought that I could run/ Because I need you more than I ever thought that I could need someone, yeah.” The song seems to be about someone waiting for a message from a woman who is in a relationship with another dude. He has a dream that her man will leave her and she will go with him.

11. “Trouble Breathing”: Is according to Matt a song about his friend committing suicide. There’s something really dark about the song and it’s definitely the darkest song on the album, possibly in their entire catalog. The line “Don’t forget to let your life rot you inside out” is almost painful to listen to, it just sounds so bitter, sad and angry! He also sings that his friend will always be in pain and nothing will be OK. The song shows how two angsty and misplaced young friends can be on completely different levels in their minds. The “I”, well, Matt, has a very jokey attitude about death and life, and is assuming that his friend feels the same, and he is not able to take his troubles seriously. When his friend says it’s a wonderful night to die, he asks how he can tell and the answer turns out to be more depressing than he expected (“Look how god damn ugly the stars are”), the same happens in the second verse, his friend claims the daylight burns him and the sunlight is enough to kill him and he replies “Maybe you’re a vampire” and gets an even more depressing answer: “It’s quite possible, I feel truly dead inside”. In a lot of ways it reminds me of “Fuck You Aurora” where the protagonist tries to find someone to blame for someone’s death, because he doesn’t want to blame himself. I’m not sure if the “I” in “Trouble Breathing” really blames himself, but there’s a sense of bitterness towards his friend that could stem from also feeling a bit guilty for not taking his depression seriously.

12. “Sorry About That”: The album ends on another acoustic track, I’ve often heard it referred to as the song that succeeded at what “Enjoy Your Day” failed at. The song is beautiful and sore and has a way better melody than “Enjoy Your Day”. The lyrics also really fit the style of the song. It’s about two drunk people that spend the night together. The narrator feels guilty because he feels like he has taken advantage of her heart being broken and he knows that they had lost each other and whatever they had is over. Here the title is pretty much perfect. In the chorus he wonders what would’ve happened if he hadn’t ignored her broken heart; maybe they would’ve been together.

Bonus track: “Sundials”: There are four bonus tracks on the re-issue. All of them are from the 1996 demo tape. On the re-issue it’s referred to as “Redux”. Most of the songs sound pretty rough, including an early version of “Nose over Tail. “Sundials” is the best of the bunch and has some really great lines like “You were like a toilet bowl at the end of a rainbow” and “we got laid like concrete/We fought like soldiers, but we died like flies” and “What good are sundials once the sun is gone? What are you good for?”

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Is Alkaline Trio really Pop Punk? One might ask, and there’s no definite answer to that and Pop Punk has become a pretty fleeting term lately, so whatever. There’s more heartbreak and unrequited love on this album than most albums. Skiba’s style has often been compared to Paul Westerberg of the Replacements. And next Pop Punk Pick will derail even more from Pop Punk at it is, yes, Tim by the Replacements.

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!