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

Rene’s Picks

1997 was an eventful year for me. In some ways, I feel like 1997 was the year the myth of me was created, both literally and in the sense that my personality or maybe even persona was starting to take shape and I would become self-aware enough to think that “me” was a thing. I started taking an interest in religions and myths. I found the idea ridiculous yet interesting. I decided to write my own scripture and dig them underground so that someone would dig them up in millions of years and worship me as a prophet. I’m sure those papers have faded, but one can hope. I remember Easter quite well that year. Norwegian TV showed a series about the Bible and I watched it like it was Narnia. I also tried to read the new testament with little success. In the summer, I went to hang out with my girlfriend every day and we would hang out with her friends who seemed to find it strange to hang out with a boy. I would only talk about religion and the smurfs, my only interests. I, like I said in the 1996 article, returned Spice Girls and Space Jam for Smurf CD’s. This got me hooked on Smurf versions of famous pop songs and it inspired me to start writing songs myself. It was all clear now, I was gonna be a popstar.

One day as we were hanging out, my girlfriend’s best friend asked us “are you guys still a couple?”, she answered “no, we’re too old for that now. Right René?” and I was like “yeah” thinking “Whaaaaat??”. This is how pop punk music starts. If only I knew pop punk in 1997 instead of smurfs. Our terrible, casual break-up aside, she let me watch Grease with her and her friends, even if I was a boy. It was the moment I started feeling like gender roles were a thing; they just weren’t a thing for me. In a few weeks, I would go from Grease to Greece. Me and my family went to the island of Crete and this was where my interest in Greek mythology blossomed, especially the story about Thesus and the Minotaur. I even got my own Minotaur’s head that I still have at my parent’s place. Every day for seven weeks the only thing I ate was Pizza Margarita. I was known as the Margarita boy at the local restaurant. One day, I went to the restaurant at the hotel and decided to get Spaghetti Bologna instead and got something spicy stuff in my throat. I had sucked on my hoodie string and my tongue was black. I had no idea if it was the spicy meal or the sucking that caused it, but my throat started to hurt. After a few days I also got a mint pastille stuck in my throat and I couldn’t tell if it was still stuck there, but I felt a lump there. I had to go to the doctor and was told I had a throat infection and that I had to take penicillin. It lasted for months. No more Pizza for me, and I could only eat Tomato soup. I would still get Margarita since the waiters were so used to it.

When I got home I went to the library and found books on Greek mythology. I also decided to write my autobiography, now that I was dumped by my girlfriend, that’s what I had to do. I didn’t actually get around to it, but I think replaying my own life so much in my head could have been a reason I remember so much of my childhood. This was also the year I first heard “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. I found a song I liked more than the smurfs. One day the house down the street with covered windows played “My oh My” very loud and it would make me want to go there, but didn’t. I’ve learned in retrospect, that it was an illegal strip club. At Christmas, I wanted to write Christmas songs like that John Lennon guy and that Paul McCartney guy, whoever they were.

There were many albums to choose from this year: my first Green Day album Nimrod, NOFX’s classic So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, Happy Birthday to Me by The Muffs and of course one of my favorite MTX albums Revenge Is Sweet and so Are You. I have already written about the latter in my column and I think I would have picked it for 1997 if it weren’t for that, so this was a tough year to pick three. My picks for this year were Dude Ranch by Blink, Have a Ball by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Hang-Ups by Goldfinger.

Blink-182-Dude Ranch

For me, Dude Ranch was the hardest Blink album to get into, but it also became by far my favorite. Songs like “Lemmings” and “Apple Shampoo” were quite heavy and not very poppy. I always preferred the “live” version of “Pathetic” from the Mark, Tom and Travis Show to the Dude Ranch version and still do, but I got to admit it’s one hell of an album opener and I don’t for one second believe that the punkest of punks don’t think it’s as punk rock as music can get. While Cheshire Cat was lo-fi and raw and poppy and light, and closer to Enema except the high production, Dude Ranch falls into the category of very hard-hitting and aggressive yet well-produced albums like Insomniac and Ixnay on the Hombre. My Easter in 2002 was very different from 1997; I didn’t care much for the Bible anymore and cared more about Blink. My dad had been in Belfast and came home with Dude Ranch and a box of Skittles. So now I think of Skittles whenever I hear the album. As much as the punkier songs terrified me as a twelve year old, the poppier songs such as “Untitled” and “I’m Sorry” quickly became my favorite Blink songs. I also considered “Boring”, well, boring, and it still is my least favorite song on the album, whereas “Apple Shampoo” is now one of my favorites. The lyrical themes of the album goes from masturbating to Princess Leia (“A New Hope”), to getting drunk and naked and in trouble with the police (“Degenerate”), selling out and losing friends (“Lemmings”), a friend getting injured in a car accident (“I’m Sorry”) break-ups and relationships that makes you question your own maturity (“Dammit”, “Untitled”, “Pathetic” and “Waggy”) and having the perfect girlfriend (“Josie”).

“Voyeur” is the creepiest song on the album. It’s from the perspective of a stalker who watches a girl undressing from a tree and masturbates. It reminds me of Masked Intruder in that the actions of the narrators are so messed up and we know it, but we still hear it from their perspective and “my lady’s so sweet she likes to entertain” becomes quite creepy when we know that this woman or girl might not even know she’s being watched. The lyrics are quite well written and they actually give me the creeps. It bridges between going into extreme character and satire in the same way that “When You Fucked Grandpa” would do four years later, but sounding a lot more sincere and missing the obvious attempt at humor. The song also sounds fantastic with perfect nanas and handclaps that makes a song about violence against women sound like the perfect pop song. “Emo” goes in the opposite direction. Just as catchy and well written it is a song about domestic abuse from the point of view of a friend who sees his female friend be abused by her man. I suppose it could also be seen from the point of view of a son watching his mom get abused, but “Emo” and “Voyeur” really seems like polar opposites. “Dick Lips” has an americana-esque intro that fits the farm theme of the album (and the skit between “Boring” and “Dick Lips” is straight from the horse’s mouth), is about Tom being kicked out of school for drinking and his reaction to his parents and their hypocrisy for punishing him “Shit, dad, please don’t kick my ass I know I’ve seen you trashed at least one time”. The song is confessional and well written and one of the highlights of the album. If it had more accessible vocals, another title and a music video, I think it could’ve been the “All the Small Things” of Dude Ranch. Instead the big hit of the album was “Dammit”, a well-produced song with an organ hidden between the heavy distorted guitar and Mark’s cigarette fueled singing that doesn’t sound like anything he would sing before or after. The single “Dammit (Growing Up)” reached #34 in Australia and #11 on the Modern Rock charts in the US as late as in July 1998. It has been covered by Frank Turner and I think it’s such a strong song that it can take any shape and still be a good tune. Another thing that is cool about the album is that about half of the song titles are adjectives: “Boring”, “Pathetic”, “Untitled” (if that’s an actual title), “Waggy”, “Enthused” and more. Dude Ranch was released on MCA and Cargo June 17, 1997.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes- Have a Ball

The first time I heard Have a Ball was in Tower Records in London in 2003. It was their debut album after only releasing 7-inches for a while. The 7-inches were original artist themed, so they covered two songs by an artist and released them on several punk labels. “Diamond” was released on Hopeless Records and had two Neil Diamond songs and “Elton” was released on Honest Don’s and had two Elton John songs. Most of the songs on Have a Ball also appear on the singles, with the other one from the singles on Have Another Ball that was released in 2008. The album mostly has covers from 60s and 70s, with the exception of “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel that was from the 80s. A song that has become my favorite is “Fire and Rain”, a James Taylor cover that is terribly sad in its original version, but very upbeat and happy in the Gimme Gimmes one. It’s one of those occurrences where the music really changes the meaning of the lyrics. The song is about Taylor’s friend who killed herself in a mental institution. It’s one of the most depressing songs ever written and the chorus about seeing fire and rain and hard times concludes that “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again”. The James Taylor version gives me the feeling of loss and knowing you’ll never see someone that meant a lot to you again, while the Gimme Gimmes cover is so joyful that it gives the feeling of hope that the two friends will indeed meet again. Now that I think about it, I wrote about that in the Are a Drag article, but it can never be repeated enough. Another highlight is the cover of Original Caste’s “One Tin Soldier”. The album was released July 29th, 1997.

Goldfinger- Hang Ups


Released September 9th on Mojo Records, Hang-ups was Goldfinger’s second album, a mix of pop punk, ska, reggae and classic pop. Their first self-titled album had hits like “Mable” and “Here In Your Bedroom”. Hang-ups is to me more ska-based than its predecessor. I remember first hearing the song “Superman” in Tony Hawk Pro Skater, like so many others. It is the album opener and the biggest Goldfinger song. Before I bought the album in early 2004, I had heard many songs from the album and already owned “Open Your Eyes”. The songs that made me want to buy Hang-ups were “Disorder” and “If Only”, two of my favorite songs at 13 and 14. The thing I remember the most buying it was how god damn long the CD was, mostly due to all the bonus tracks. One of them being the beautiful “It Isn’t Just Me”, a pop ballad that really shows the diversity in John Feldmann’s songwriting. It shows the great talent behind a man that in my opinion uses that talent mostly to write soulless pop songs and plastic pop punk songs for generic bands. “It Isn’t Just Me” is not like that at all and I think it’s quite an underrated tune. “If Only” showed some of this talent too and highlights all the different genres the band would play with on the album in one song. The songs starts up reggae-esque, but the second verse it sounds like “punk from the 90s”, namedropping Mike Ness from Social Distortion (something Feldmann does many times on the album). The bridge sounds like metal and the ending sounds like folk music or maybe even soft rock. It’s a beautiful song in the style that I like to call “using pop culture to describe unrequited love”. The protagonist in the song wishes he had the courage of the A-team or had a Sumner’s sweater or were a better surfer he would get the girl he dreams about, but concludes in the end that even if he got to be what he wished to be, she still might not be into him.

“I Need to Know” is Sublime done better than Sublime. A reggae song with a great melodic solo that I’m not ashamed to like. The vocal harmonies are also perfect. There are more reggae and ska-ish songs on the album “20 Cent Goodbye”, “Carlita” and of course “Superman” are classics in the infamous 3rd wave genre and I think it’s some of the songs in the genre that holds up the best. The best pop punk songs are “The Last Time” and “My Head” and of course “Chris Clayton”. “This Lonely Place” with its sitar and catchy chorus sounds more inspired by the Beatles than anything. Overall it’s a nostalgic listen for me, like all of these three albums. I think all of these picks will probably make people cringe to some degree, but I don’t care about that. Like John Feldmann would say on a later album, “Really it’s just music after all”.

Dave’s Picks

The Mr. T Experience- Revenge is Sweet, and So Are You

There a few contenders but, for me, Revenge is Sweet, and So Are You has always represented the pinnacle of MTX. The band’s 8th record offered up another dose of hook-filled pop-punk goodness alongside Dr. Frank’s standout songwriting, but this felt like the moment when MTX turned things up to another level. The inconsistencies and flaws of their previous material were ironed out and, consequently, Revenge is Sweet is a lean, mean hit machine, which feels like a weird thing to say for a 16 track LP, but I honestly wouldn’t cut a thing from this album (even “Foggy Mountain Top”!).

Revenge is Sweet produced a bunch of MTX’s best-known and well-loved go-to pop-punk classics that exemplify the ‘90s Lookout! sound, notably with the opening one-two classic of “Here She Comes” and “She’s Coming Over Tonight”. As with many MTX fans, I guess, “She’s Coming Over Tonight” was one of the first songs I heard by the band, and possibly the first. The song is such a perfect dose of unmitigated and exhilarating joy and it just cannot help but put a smile on my face and make my toes tap; a nerdy punk band singing about finally getting the girl with ‘90s pop-punk meets ‘60s garage rock melodies- “miracles and lucky charms/made the girl of my dreams the girl in my arms”. Outside of these, my personal favourite straight-up pop-punk tracks on the record are “Lawnmower of Love” and “Who Needs Happiness? (I’d Rather Have You)”, both of which connect to similar themes: the tragedy-cum-comedy of two people getting together in spite of the likelihood that the relationship is going to make them both miserable as sin. The latter contains the eminently quotable and memorable line, “If falling short on happiness is the best that we can do/ Who needs happiness? I’d rather have you”.

MTX have engaged with country influences before and since, but this was the record which bore out the cream of the classic country/mock-country MTX crop. In particular, “Hell of Dumb” and “With My Brain and Your Looks” are equally brilliant, although somewhat different in tone. While the former is self-loathing and involves the protagonist kicking themselves for ruining things in their relationship along to a country twang, the latter is a little silly, about creating children that are both good-looking and intelligent from the, yep, smart guy and pretty girl, and how the reverse set-up would be a nightmare.

As Read Hard has suggested in his ‘Classic Pop-punk Pick’ article on the album, Revenge appears to follow a chronological pattern, with Dr. Frank passing through numerous stages of love-sickness, break-up and post-break-up melancholy during the record. There are couple of notable mid-tempo and downbeat break-up tracks on Revenge which retain Dr. Frank’s trademark witty and humouristic songwriting style: “The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” and “When I Lost You”. I particularly love the former’s novel way of expressing the latter days of a relationship. A truly great pop-punk record and one of the best of the ‘90s!

NOFX- So Long and Thanks For All the Shoes

Although it is perhaps not as fondly remembered as NOFX’s classic ‘90s material- White Trash, Punk in Drublic, Heavy Petting Zoo- So Long and Thanks For All the Shoes is nevertheless comprised of a high-quality bunch of abrasive and eclectic punk tunes. When I listened back to it recently for the first time in a while, it was quite a bit better than I remember; in this period, NOFX could barely do any wrong and when this record opens with the semi-tongue-in-cheek snarl of “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite”, it’s worthless to even think about not singing along: “This music ain’t your fucking industry!”

By the time you are at track 3, you have already heard a catchy-as-fuck and somewhat bizarre ode to Ketamine (“Kids of the K Hole”) and one of the best sub- 1 minute punk songs of all time (“Murder the Government”). I love “The Desperation’s Gone”, a Punk in Drublic-esque melodic punk ear-worm and one of the best lyrics about ‘selling out’ in an era of punk that was obsessed with it. Elsewhere, “I’m Telling Tim” is a great short and spikey track about Tim Yohannan, aka the founder of Maximum Rocknroll (RIP), “All Outta Angst” and “Eat the Meek” are memorable ska tunes from NOFX, and “Falling in Love” is a wonderful slice of melodic punk melancholy. There are a couple of missteps- like the ho-hum, too Fat Wreck-for-its-own-good “Dad’s Bad News” and the lame ‘diss track’ about Kathleen Hanna and Riot Grrrl “Kill Rock Stars”- but So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes is essentially NOFX in their pomp and Fat Mike in his snarling and sarcastic prime.

The Get Up Kids- Four Minute Mile

Ok, so I was struggling somewhat with the third pick for 1997. The first two were straightforward but for the third one, nothing stood out that particularly meant a lot to me. In the end, I opted for The Get Up Kids’ debut full-length Four Minute Mile, a record that totally passed me by at that age when you should be listening to it. Released in emo’s heyday, the album is all suburban angst and teenage heartbreak; I think I first heard it when I was about 25. I imagine most 25 year olds listening to Four Minute Mile are on a nostalgia trip, whereas I was living out these adolescent emo anthems for the first time. Something to Write Home About is probably the better overall album really, thinking about production and refined songcraft, but Four Minute Mile is such a charming and organic, albeit flawed, pop-punk-emo record.

Vice recently named 1997 as the ‘year that emo broke’, documenting a 12 month period that saw seminal releases by Hot Water Music, The Promise Ring and Mineral. The Get Up Kids were one of the first bands to combine the breakthrough pop-punk and emo sounds of the mid ‘90s, doling out sing-a-long hooks and overly earnest heartbreak in equal doses. Listening to Four Minute Mile, you feel like you are travelling on a fast-paced and relentless emotional high-school juggernaut; it’s spunky, passionate and achingly heart-on-sleeve. The production is all over the place, reflected in the short recording time for the album, giving the whole thing a distinct amateur high-school feel. Indeed, the reason for the low quality production was partly so that the drummer, who was 16 at the time of recording, wouldn’t miss high school.

As a result, the unrefined production style wonderfully complements the small-town ennui and melodramatic, adolescent songwriting. While styled differently, some of the high school dramatics and idealism portrayed on Four Minute Mile are not a million miles away from Green Day’s early material. The vocals on tracks like “Fall Semester” ache and whine like nobody’s business- and it’s kind of awesome. Lyrically, it’s all essentially teenage poetry, and they do that thing that all kids do growing up and start being nostalgic and thinking about a lost youth when they are like only 18, as on “Shorty” (“the last time that I saw you like this/we were kids”) or “Stay Gold, Ponyboy” (“I’ll cry ’til I can’t see the whites of my eyes / for two more years / we’ll be old enough to know better / young enough to pretend.”).

Albums I also enjoyed from 1997:

Green Day- Nimrod

Hot Water Music- Fuel for the Hate Game

The Promise Ring- Nothing Feels Good

Advertisements

31st of July this year marked seven years since Tony Sly passed away. Just today, the day I’m writing this (the 9th of August), I saw the signed copy of Keep ‘Em Confused at the record store at the mall. I think of buying it every time I’m there, but I feel like it’s a bit weird for me to have an album signed by Tony Sly, like there is something sacred about it that shouldn’t belong to me, maybe it’s not even for sale. No Use or a Name is a band that I don’t write much about nor is it a band I think that much about, but it actually is a band that means a lot to me in many ways, that I will get back to later. No use for a Name was started in 1986, Chris Dodge, Steve Papoutsis and Rory Koff started the band in Sunnyvale in the Bay Area. In ‘87 Dodge left, only to return again in 1988. Tony Sly joined the band on guitar in ‘87. Ramon Gras also sang a little while with the band, but was replaced by Dodge. In 1989, Dodge left again, and Sly took over as the lead singer. Their debut album Incognito was released on the punk label New Red Archive in 1990. It was produced by Brett Gurewitz. The next album Don’t Miss the Train was released on the same label. For this album, Chris Dodge returned. Dodge described the experience of returning (http://tonysly.org/index.php/early-no-use-for-a-name-the-beginning): “After I quit, NUFAN wised up and made Tony the lead vocalist. The new formula was Tony as the front person, accented by a second guitarist. Still, I tended to be the default guy they’d call when someone else quit, so in 1991 I was asked to join the band yet again. This was my third time with the outfit, and this time back on guitar. Tony was rightfully the lead vocalist at this point, and he was starting to tap into what would eventually become the true NUFAN sound. It wasn’t fully there, but it was starting to formulate, especially in comparison with the earlier releases.”

In 1993, NUFAN would be the third band to sign to Fat Wreck Chords after Lagwagon and Propagandhi. This was right after Dodge left for the third time and he would later get a job at Fat Wreck himself. Their first Fat release would become the‘Daily Grind’ EP. The first Fat album was released in 1995 at the height of punk’s popularity. The album was called ¡Leche con Carne! , which included a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, a staple at their shows, and “Soulmate” a song about substance abuse and insecurity that would get rotation on MTV, something that ended when Fat Mike supposedly refused to give in to blackmail from the TV network. Chris Shiflett joined the band for their next release Making Friends in 1997; possibly their best album. What’s your name? fuck you, that’s my name! In 1999, they took a poppier turn with More Betterness. Shiflett would then leave to play with the Foo Fighters as well as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The next releases would be Hard Rock Bottom, Keep ‘em Confused and Feel Good Record of the Year. They also released an album in the Live in a Dive series. The band ended with Tony Sly dying in his sleep in 2012 at 41. Fat Mike, one of his best friends, wrote: “One of my dearest friends and favorite songwriters has gone way too soon. Tony, you will be greatly missed.”

Like I said, NUFAN has been a band that’s been with me a while. In 2003, I heard them for the first time on TV in Norway, which I will get back to later. In that year we had a music video show called Svisj show, where you could vote music videos up on the list and they’d play. One day No Use for a Name ended up on the list, along with Busted’s “Year 3000”; it’s a terrible thing to say, but for months I would mistake the two bands because of this. Hard Rock Bottom was one of the first NUFAN albums I bought, I think, back in 2005 or 2006. In 2004, I would listen to it on a local record store and decide that I wasn’t gonna buy it before I had bought the War on Errorism, which I had listened to a couple of months before, but not decided to buy yet. When I bought WOE in 2005, I could buy HRB a couple months later. When I discovered the Fat Wreck website in 2004, I would download “Sitting Duck” from there. Making Friends would also become an album I would love a lot of songs from like “On the Outside”, “Invincible” and “Secret” became some of my favorite NUFAN songs. I bought Making Friends and Hard Rock Bottom around the same time. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was in London 2006. This was also the time I discovered that NUFAN was gonna play in London, at the club Mean Fiddler. The show was No Use for a Name, Lawrence Arms and another band which I wasn’t familiar with, April 13th 2006. Prior to that I had mostly seen local punk bands and the biggest punk show I had seen was when I snuck into a Turbonegro show, so seeing NUFAN and Lawrence Arms was a big deal for me. It was my first real, somewhat big punk show and it was great. So I got Making Friends and Hard Rock Bottom a couple of days before the show. I remember eating at the Hard Rock Café, but I sat at the top floor, it would’ve been nuts if I sat at the Hard Rock Bottom Floor that day. I remember even joining a mosh pit to “Redemption Song”. I got a t-shirt on the way out and I was in complete ecstasy. Like they say in old songs, ‘oooh what a night.’

Hard Rock Bottom was released on June 16th, 2002 on Fat Wreck Chords and was produced by Ryan Greene and the band themselves. The album cover is a guy with dyed blonde hair playing guitar outside of a shop. Let’s get to these songs before it’s too late, and you decide to click away, if you haven’t already.

1. “Feels Like Home”: The album starts with a beautiful clean electric intro track. The lyrics are vulnerable, pretty and sad. When I first heard the album I thought it was the perfect opener and lead-up to “International You Day”, it took me six years before the song gained a meaning on its own. I didn’t even notice the lyrics until 2012. I have no idea what Tony Sly actually meant with the lyrics, but it seems to be about losing someone, either a relationship being over, friends falling out or what seems the most likely; death. NUFAN was for years a pretty cool Fat band that I enjoyed listening to and I also started discovering how great Tony Sly’s acoustic versions were on his album with Joey Cape. When Tony Sly died, it occurred to me the important role that the band actually played in my life. The first band in that particular genre that wasn’t on a major label that I heard, and the first somewhat big punk band I went to see. His death made me think of all the memories this band had created for me and I felt worried actually listening to the music again. I decided to put on Hard Rock Bottom though and that’s when I felt in a lump in my throat when I heard these words; “It’s never easy to understand/why memories hold our hand/ When people let go”. I never knew Tony Sly personally, but in that moment I felt like I had lost someone close.

2. “International You Day”: When I first “International You Day” in 2004, it was the first song I had heard that had the traditional Fat Wreck “Forbidden beat” (maybe with the exception of NOFX’s “Decom-Posuer”), and I didn’t like it. I thought the song was great, but the drums ruined the songs for me. When I got into Pump up the Valuum some months later, I felt the same way. I sometimes think that some really good pop-punk songs could’ve been better without the forbidden beat. Of course, the drums don’t ruin the song, but in fact the drum intro before it turns into the forbidden beat are some of the coolest aspects of the song, and such a good song could never be ruined by anything and it really shows Tony Sly’s talent as a songwriter. The song is a love song done correctly. It’s also meta in the sense that it’s a song about writing a long overdue love song for the person that means the most to you. The words that go “I should have told you from the start/That I’m closer than you think when we’re apart/Nothing that I’ve tried is as simple as this line” are beautiful. The title says it all: it’s about having an entire day to celebrate the person you love the most and showing them that everything is bleak without them.

3. “Pre-Medicated Murder”: Starts with a string intro and then turns back to the NUFAN that we know. Another beautiful and poetic lyric with imagery of a bed of roses that thorns replaced. The song is rather uncanny and the pun in the title gives away that the song is about someone abusing and eventually OD’ing on prescription drugs. I feel like this is a common theme on this album. The melody is also incredibly beautiful. Again, the forbidden Fat wreck beat is present, but it also has a pretty awesome bass riff that’s sort of hidden in the end.

4. “Dumb Reminders”: Again, let’s take it back to 2003, when I first saw this video on Svisj Show. I have no idea why it came into their rotation, and so long after it was released. The video was out before the summer of 2002 and it ended up on the Svisj show as a new video in spring 2003 along with Busted’s “Year 3000”. “Dumb Reminders” was a song and video I was really excited for and the video where the band was accused of lip-syncing and selling out (which many fans claimed at the time) was pretty funny. To be fair, I think I liked the Busted song too, but let’s not talk about that. It still is and will probably always be my favorite NUFAN song. The song itself describes a long distance relationship and how everything in town reminds you of your lover that is so far away. It’s probably one of the pop punk songs that gets me in the best mood even if the lyrics aren’t really that optimistic.

5. “Any Number Can Play”: Like NOFX’s “Medio-Core”, “Any Number Can Play” is criticizing the popular music of the day, where emotion is gone in favor of idolization and fame. In many ways, these kinds of attitudes seem more like idealizing a bygone era and not realizing that music has always had aspects of soullessness and exploitive capitalism about it. The song is particularly about radio when the radio DJ’s decide what gets played. I believe the title is a reference to casinos or a movie from 1949. The melody is kind of similar to the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change”. This song starts with an organ, which I don’t think any other NUFAN song does.

6. “Friends of the Enemy”: One of the best songs on the album. A great vocal melody and it could also fit right in on 1999’s More Betterness and also has a nice bass intro. I am quite unsure what the lyrics are about, but I like the use of war metaphors to describe internal struggles. I’ve always liked the line “No one is safe inside your safety zone”. I’m not sure if the “You” in the song is referring to another person, or if the narrator is talking to themselves. People are disagreeing on Songmeanings.com about its meaning as well. Some are suggesting it’s about going into a relationship, while others think it’s about drunk driving and both seem likely looking at the lyrics. The line about “taking the wheel” seems to mean very different things between the two meanings. One is quite literal and very dangerous; the other is more metaphorical and describing bravery to entire a new stage of your life.

7. “Angela”: The best line on the album for me is “Remember when we danced together and I promised you the world? Well I’ll have to take that back”. In many ways, it reminds me of “Deep Deep Down” by MTX. At first glance, they sound like a pretty love songs, but looking at it again, really it’s a song about murder. It took me a long time to realize that. In the case of “Angela”, there’s a chance that the murder in the song is metaphorical and that he is really talking about murdering a relationship, but ‘not believing authorities’ has always been a strange line to me that makes more sense now. I really like that “Angela believe in me” in the first chorus rhymes with “Angela you’re leavin’ me” in the second.

8. “Let Me Down”: Probably the closest to my favorite after “Dumb Reminders”.  Not only is it a fantastic song, but it also holds together some of the themes on the album. “Let Me Down” starts with another string intro the same way that “Pre-Medicated Murder” does, and it also has some of the same lyrical themes of dealing with prescription medication. The line “to you what is dangerous, the safe and sound” also relates to “No one is safe inside your safety sound” in “Friends of the Enemy”. The song is clearly about depression, but it’s also about someone being a shadow of themselves when they are medicated. Like with “Pre-Medicated Murder”, I think this song also reflects on being close to someone with these problems, and this time it could be about being in a relationship with someone and watching them turn into someone else because of prescription drugs. I’m not sure if the song is anti-medication or just about what depression does to people, but it’s some great lyrics regardless. Again, Tony Sly showed that he was one hell of a great lyricist. When they played it live in London 2006, it was rather unexpected and it was probably the best moment of the show. There’s also a great version of it on the Live in the Fat Lane comp.

9. “This Is a Rebel Song”: NUFAN always had good covers on their albums, mostly songs of Irish or Celtic origin. Incognito had a cover of the Police (“Truth Hits Everybody”), ¡Leche con Carne! Had the classic “Redemption Song” cover, which was the song they finished with in London and made me join a mosh pit, as well as a hidden track with a cover medley with anything from “Basket Case” to “Hey Mickey”. Making Friends had a cover of the Irish folk ballad “Fields of Athenry” about the great famine of the 1840s, followed by a hidden track with Kiss’s “Beth” and the Beverly Hills 90210 theme. More Betterness got all Christmassy in the middle and they did their classic cover of “Fairytale of New York”. The cover on Hard Rock Bottom is “This Is a Rebel Song”, a cover of Sinéad o’ Connor. At first this cover was very off putting to me, but I’ve grown to appreciate it. Tony also splits vocals with Karina Denike from Dance Hall Crashers on the track. The lyrics describe being a woman in an abusive relationship with an English man. In context of the conflict between England and Ireland, the two people in the song are also metonymies for their countries.

10. “Solitaire”: The war and military metaphors continue with solitaire. The way I understand the lyrics they are about trying to save the one that can’t be saved, that everyone else have given up on, a common thread on this album. The last chorus is great: “I’m starting to think that all the buoys we sink/Are cutting our chances of being saved/I see that the end is all we have to let us know/I’d like to believe in something more than a dream/For when the will to be one has faded/I guess the truth will soon be deceived/My friend that isn’t there/My solitaire”. The musicianship in the song is also great, I love the cool opening guitar riff and an interesting bass line going through the verses. It’s also a bit more downbeat than the rest of the songs.

11. “Undefeated”: I’ve always felt like the last songs on the album were hard to tell apart, even if they are all good tunes. “Undefeated” continues in the same way as many of the other songs with war-metaphors (“victory claims, this is your song”), although I suppose it could also be a sports metaphor, but the song is about trying to win something you can’t win. Their victory is not getting close to someone else, which could also be seen as a loss. The line can also be likened to the “loneliness parade” on “Friends of the Enemy”. Musically it sounds a bit more metal-inspired than the other songs on the album.

12. “Insecurity Alert”: Guess what? There are even more military metaphors! This time, it’s not really that much of a metaphor, but about actual war and it’s possibly the most political song they ever did. It followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11 2001 and is about the war in Afghanistan and the propaganda and fear that the U.S government spread in the time following the terrorist attack. In a scary way, it also predicts the execution of Saddam Hussein (“televise the execution”). It also has the great line “You can’t spell believe without “lie’”, that is probably the most memorable lyric on the album. It’s strange to me that NUFAN made such a direct and literal song, but I still think it’s possible that the situation is used as a metaphor for a relationship or a friendship which would give an ambiguity to it (There’s no redemption in this war/So please don’t forget what this is for”). The reverbed drums in the second verse are a pretty cool thing that makes that verse stand out.

13. “Nailed Shut”: The album ends with one of the strongest melodies on there. I also like the cool effects that are on the vocals and on the drums in this song. The clean guitar intro with the skillful bass played along with it is pretty rad. The song is about regret and realizing that you made mistakes in the past, but the song seems really vindictive and calling out the hypocrisy of the people that want you dead. It also gives an echo of “Dumb Reminders” in the back-up vocals that go “Please let me know”. All in all, it’s a great song to finish the album with.

Check out the album here: https://nouseforaname.bandcamp.com/album/hard-rock-bottom

————————————————————————————-

Well, that was 2002; next time we’re gonna move back to 1977 and hope we’ll go to heaven. Because I’m gonna talk about the first Clash album, but will it be the American or the original U.K version, or could it be both? Stay out of tune, punks!

Since last month was pride month, I think it was about time there was an actual queer album in this column, so this month seemed to be the perfect time to write it. During this month, big corporations and businesses use the rainbow flag as a marketing tool to sell products, even if they never seem to care about LGBT issues the rest of the year and I hope this article will not be a part of an exploiting tradition, but a contribution to Pride month. Pansy Division is, of course, an important name in the pop punk genre and their lewd homoerotic lyrics have fascinated and offended quite a few people over the years. Jon Ginoli started the band because there were very few queer rockers. At the time Freddie Mercury and George Michael hadn’t come out. In the beginning, Pansy Division wasn’t a band, but a solo moniker of Ginoli. Later, Chris Freeman joined the band on bass. About the band name, Ginoli wrote on the Pansy Division website that “In January 1991, before the band had formed, I was sitting at my desk in the San Francisco office of Rough Trade Distribution, trying to think of a name for this queer rock thing I was starting. I looked up at the bulletin board next to the desk and misread the name of an upcoming release by some band called Third Panzer Division. I flashed on Pansy Division by mistake and thought it was good, and it stuck.”

The song “I Can’t Sleep” was released on a queercore compilation called Outpunk Dance Party on the label Outpunk in 1992. The same year the band signed to Lookout and released their debut single “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket” there. A single that included the fantastic Christmas tune “Homo Christmas” (one of the gayest yuletide songs in my house, in both senses of the word) and the Nirvana cover “Smells Like Queer Spirit”. ‘Queerifying’ popular rock songs became a thing Pansy Division started doing, like the Ramones cover “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queer Bar”. The first album Undressed was out in 1993, when being out wasn’t as safe as it is today, not that it’s safe today. The album’s lyrics balanced the line between sex positive and risqué and includes some of the band’s finest work. The next album Deflowered was released a year later. It continued the sex positive theme of its predecessor, but also included the sad cautionary tale “Denny”, about the HIV virus and about hard it can be to love oneself. There were also some covers, like Pete Shelley’s queer-anthem “Homo Sapien” and a queerified Jonathan Richman cover. It was also the first album we got to hear a song from Chris Freeman; the wonderful “James Bondage”. In 1994, they went on tour with Green Day when they were promoting Dookie, PD encountered lots of homophobia from the young, macho fan base that Green Day had at the time. Throughout the 90s, there would be many good releases from Pansy Division like the album Absurd Pop Song Romance recorded and mixed by Steve Albini, and the heavy metal inspired single “For Those about to Suck Cock”, that included a cover of the Judas Priest song “Breaking the Law” two years before Rob Halford officially came out. Metallica’s Kirk Hammet also played on the single. Let’s not forget the single with the name “Nine Inch Males” (maybe the best title ever!). After almost ten years on Lookout, they signed to Jello Biafra’s label Alternative Tentacles in 2001, which gave us Total Entertainment (2003), That’s so Gay (2009) and Quite Contrary (2016), and of course the compilation Essential: Pansy Division, which I surprisingly found at a Salvation Army shop, but sadly without the DVD.

Wish I’d Taken Pictures was released February 13 1996 on Lookout and Mint Records. It was produced by Pansy Division themselves and engineered by Timothy Daly. It was recorded in Razor’s Edge studio in San Francisc in November 1995. The two men appearing on the cover; Mark Ewert and Moon Trent, also appeared on the Quite Contrary cover in the same location. The photographer who got to take the picture was Marc Geller. Drummer on the album was Dustin Donaldson. It was their third album. The cassette version comes in a purple shell.

—————————————————————————————————————

1. “Horny in the Morning”: The album starts with the perfect song to use for your morning alarm. It’s written by both Ginoli and Freeman. The lyrics are relatable to people of all sexual orientations and genders, at least to those individuals with penises. It’s of course about waking up in the morning with an erection or ‘morning wood’ as they call it, but there is no one there to share it with, so one has to take matter in one’s own hands. It is the song that gave us the great lines “Want a guy on the horizon/ When the sun comes up that’s when I’m risin’”. In the liner notes to the Essential Pansy Division comp Jon Ginoli wrote “I was always wearied by gay bar hours…and thought morning wood was a deserving topic for a song”.

2. “Vanilla”: After two albums that were quite sex positive and raunchy, “Vanilla” is about boundaries and is a bit more, well, vanilla. The song’s character is pursued by a man who is into BDSM, but realizes it isn’t his thing. The song is about respecting other’s boundaries as well as respecting other’s kinks. The “you’re liberal, but fantasize right-wing” is a classic. The song is secluded, but not judge-y or kink shame-y. “Vanilla” was also written by both Ginoli and Freeman. In the liner EPD liner notes Ginoli writes “This was my personal response to “James Bondage” to balance the scales”. The vocal harmonies are wonderful in this one!

3. “I Really Wanted You”: 1996 was the year that Pansy Division ended up on MTV, specifically on the alternative show ‘120 Minutes’. The video was for the outstanding pop tune “I Really Wanted You”, about the universal theme of unrequited love. In the song, the protagonist hears about the man he has a crush on getting married to a woman. I’m not sure if the protagonist tries to stop the wedding or tells him the truth (I really wanted you), to move on, but if a song like this doesn’t work to stop a wedding, nothing will. Ginoli actually wrote the song for his first band the Outnumbered, as early as 1985, but improved by Pansy Division, according to the EPD liner notes. 

4. “Dick of Death”: Probably the most “pop punk” Pansy Division song. The band also describes it as one of their “gayest songs”. In live shows nowadays, it’s the band’s straight alibi Joel Reader who sings it. The song is written by Chris Freeman, and it’s about something that actually happened in Australia on tour. In the EPD liner notes, Ginoli denies that the song has anything to do with AIDS and I think it’s obvious that the song is about a guy with an abnormally large member, rather than about AIDS.

5. “Expiration Date”: One of the band’s weirder songs with its megaphone vocals and experimental bass lines. The song of course is about condoms reaching the expiration date. A song about a failed quest for sex among macho men, catty queens and drug addicts.

6. “The Summer You Let Your Hair Grow Out”: Another collaboration between Chris and Jon. It always sounded like a hippie song to me, not in a bad way, if hippie in a good way exists. It’s actually one of my favorite PD songs. It’s a great summer song, again about unrequited love. It’s about a dude who spends his summer with the guy of his dreams, who apparently let his hair grow out this summer. These two guys spend all their time together, with all this sexual tension, at least it seems that way for the protagonist, but in the end it turns out to be nothing and disappointment ensues. Ginoli wrote the lyrics while listening to Gram Parsons while cooking.

7. “Wish I’d Taken Pictures”: The title track is also one of my favorites on this album and it’s a shame it didn’t make the EPD collection. The song starts off really romantic, about memories of past lovers. The song’s main character describes three of his exs. The first one seemed like a prima donna, but the main character wishes he had taken pictures because he misses his face. The next one is an “alabastard” with alabaster skin and he wished he would have taken pictures of him as well. The third boyfriend he wishes he would have taken pictures of was a goth who took himself too seriously and made his bed an altar and this relationship ends as well. In the end, he fines a new beau and gets a camera. His pessimistic side decided this won’t last either, so he takes pictures of his boyfriend’s ass because that’s what he wants to remember.

8. “Pillow Talk”: The eighth song on the album is a quite catchy one. For some reason all the hits are on side-A, so most of the songs on side-B, even if there are great songs on there, seem less memorable. The song is about two men in an open relationship and one of them wants to know what the other one does with other guys through pillow talk and in the end he also confesses he wants in on the action. It’s an upbeat pop punk song, and my favorite instrument, the tambourine, is here.

9. “This Is Your Life”: Another of my favorites is “This Is Your Life”, it’s definitely the best song on side-B. The song is about realizing that after you entered a relationship you’re not part of your own life anymore, just playing a part in someone else’s life, and that it’s time to get out. I’m pretty sure this one is sung by Chris Freeman. I think it stands out from the other PD songs. There’s something Gin Blossoms/Lemonheads/ about it and there’s something strangely beautiful about the melody.

10. “Don’t Be So Sure”: The first ballad of the album. The lyrics are rather sad and is about being someone’s safe choice when they are tired of sexual adventures and the heartache that comes with that. I feel like Pansy Division got the reputation of being the queer, sex-positive, promiscuous and fun band, but sometimes we get songs that show insecurities and “Don’t Be So Sure” is definitely one of them.

11. “Kevin”: In many ways, it reminds me of “Denny”. Unlike Denny, who struggles with self-love, Kevin struggles with confusion about his sexual identity. Kevin is clearly an attractive man, but he is secretive and frightened by intimacy. He has kissed a woman while drunk, but he won’t talk to his friends about his sexuality. He won’t be pinned down or labelled, he won’t say he is gay or bi or not. It seems as though Kevin could be what is known as “questioning”. “Kevin won’t talk/ But maybe Kevin’s more confused than we are”. Not really one of the strongest deep cuts of the album, but a fine song.

12. “The Ache”: The second ballad of the album. With an acoustic guitar and a tambourine and soft vocals stimulating your emotions, it’s one of the band’s slowest songs. It’s quite beautiful, and very different than the rest of the band’s output. It also has a cello-part played by Kirk Heydt. There’s something almost Replacements-esque about it. Lyrically, the song leans more on the insecure and emotional side that we’d later get to see in songs like “Sweet Insecurity”. The protagonist in the song has entered a relationship and wonders if it’s worth it when all he is left is an empty ache.

13. “Pee Shy”: Probably the most rock ‘n’ roll track, it almost sounds like a Joan Jett tune or an early 70s glam rock song, but the subject matter is very different from either of those. It’s about a man who is confident and fearless, but pissing when someone else is there is his Achilles heel. “If you can’t pee quick enough/They’ll think you’re beating your meat”. If that’s not relatable, I’m not sure what is.

14. “Sidewalk Sale”: A short little album closer and a catchy one too! The song is about when the gay bar closes and the last chance to get laid is the sidewalk sale. I’m not sure if the sidewalk sale is a reference to prostitution, but the protagonist feels like pursuing someone at the sidewalk sale is below his dignity, no matter how desperate he feels. In the end, he ends up passing on the sidewalk sale.

Check out Wish I’d Taken Pictures here: https://pansydivision.bandcamp.com/album/wish-id-taken-pictures

Next time, I will be looking back at No Use for a Name’s 2002 album Hard Rock Bottom.

I’ve wondered when the day would come when this column goes too far. And this one is about a record, that isn’t pop punk, that isn’t even an album. I’m talking about Boys Don’t Cry, the American edition of The Cure’s debut album Three Imaginary Boys, but somehow it fits into the column. This is the year when The Cure was accepted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio along with the likes of the Zombies, Stevie Nicks and Radiohead. Robert Smith and the gang seemed humble and surprised to be there, even if it doesn’t really come as a surprise to most music fans. The band formed in 1976 as Malice, but had performed together as a school band at Notre Dame Middle school in Crawley, West Sussex since 1973. Malice played covers of David Bowie, Alex Harvey and Jimi Hendrix. In 1977, when punk rock finally made it into the mainstream, Malice changed their name to Easy Cure. The band recorded their first demo in 1978 and removed the “easy” from their name, as they were now a trio. On May 8 1979 they released their debut album Three Imaginary Boys on Fiction Records. After the release, the Cure went on tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees. In the middle of the tour, SATB’s guitarist John McKay quit and Robert Allen Smith Jr., the Cure’s singer and guitarist would step in and play for both bands. The experience of playing with the Banshees inspired Smith a lot. He wanted the Cure to be the punk rock Beatles, what the Buzzcocks and Elvis Costello were trying to do at the time, but playing with Siouxsie Sioux and her band made him want to get to into a more gothic sound, which the band would later be famous for. The line-up on Three Imaginary Boys was Robert Smith on vocals and guitar, Michael Dempsey on bass and vocals and Lol Tolhurst on drums. With the band’s new direction Simon Gallup replaced Dempsey on bass. The following records Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography went in a darker and less accessible direction, while The Top would be a lot more diverse and engage with the new pop of the new romantics, jazz, psychedelia and electronic music, like New Order were doing at the time. In 1985, they would release what I would consider their best album and the first album with what I’d call the traditional Cure sound called The Head on the Door, with great pop songs like “In between Days”, “Close to Me” and “A Night like This”. Later they would consistently and constantly top themselves with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration and Wish. And the rest is history.

The album Boys Don’t Cry was released February 5 1980 on Fiction Records as the American and Australian version of Three Imiginary Boys. The track list is slightly different and ironically, it would be more popular in the UK and France than in Australia and the U.S. Where Three Imaginary Boys is a picture of household items such as a refrigerator, a lampshade and a vacuum cleaner, the Boys Don’t Cry cover looks like it’s in Egypt with palm trees, sand and a pyramid. Both covers were designed by Bill Smith. Both albums were produced by Chris Parry. On Three Imaginary Boys, the label and Parry had creative control over the album. I’m not sure if the same goes for Boys Don’t Cry, but on future albums Robert Smith would be sure to have all the creative control. Musically, I think both albums are very much like the Buzzcocks and that’s one of the reasons I feel like it fits in this column. I’ve always preferred Boys Don’t Cry to Three Imaginary Boys and where the latter is quite is to find, the former is not, so I was quite pleased when I found it in a record shop in Barcelona in 2015.

—————————————————————————————————-

1. “Boys Don’t Cry”: The album starts up with what Spin Magazine called a ‘jangle pop’ song, even if it doesn’t necessarily have anything in common with the Byrds, except Smith’s ambition to write 60s-inspired punk. I would say that this is really one of the first real pop punk songs along with “What Do I Get?” (the Buzzcocks), “Teenage Kicks” (the Undertones) and “Another Girl, Another Planet” (the Only Ones). The reverb guitar sound gives us a prediction of what the 80s would sound like. The guitar lead is incredibly cheery and the lyrics are rather sad. The song tells the tale of a boy who is apologetic about his behavior in the aftermath of a breakup, but would only apologize if she would come back to him. Instead he decided to hide in his feelings, knowing he an apology wouldn’t mean anything if he couldn’t have her back. It’s rather unclear what has happened between the two of them, but in the bridge he says he misjudged her limits, pushed her too far and took her for granted and thought that she wanted more (he rhymes “far” with “more”, which I love!). He understands that he has done wrong, but he laughs about it and keeps his feelings inside, driven by a social expectations that boys and men shouldn’t cry. In the end, he declares that he would do almost anything to get her back, but he laughs instead and hides the tears he is crying. In many ways, I could compare it to the Four Seasons classic “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, where the irony in both song is that big girls/boys actually do cry. Debra Rae Cohen wrote for Rolling Stone Magazine that “Amid the Cure’s nerve-edge numbers — hushed and haunting or insistent enough to make you dance to your own jitters — the title track is the odd tune out. “Boys Don’t Cry” is a sweetly anguished pure-pop single, carried by an aching, infectious guitar hook and the singer’s taffypull croon. Though it doesn’t have the film-clip explicitness of Smith’s other songs, the words offer a nice twist on the standard lovelorn script: boy meets girl, mistreats girl, loses girl, yearns for girl but won’t appear vulnerable — even to get her back. Hell, if Robert Smith ever decides to quit rock & roll, he’s got a great career ahead of him writing for the movies.”

A big factor in the song is how gender roles and expectations makes people act a certain way. The guy is hesitant to apologize or show his feelings because of a gender expectation, where men are supposed to not show feelings. The gender-aspect of the song gets another layer when it’s used in the movie of the same name from 1999, directed by Kimberly Peirce, about a man named Brandon who is transgender and is outed and has to move to another town and he later gets sexually assaulted and eventually murdered. The film highlights the awful problem of violence against LGBT people. A cover of the song by Nathan Larson is used in the movie. The song is also used in less serious movies such as The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. The Cure used re-recorded vocals on the version on the Standing on a Beach singles collection and re-released it as a single and a music video. I prefer the original version by a longshot. The original single was never a huge hit, but the re-issue ended up on #22 on the UK singles chart and #19 in Germany.

2. “Plastic Passion”: The B-side to the original “Boys Don’t Cry” single. The lyrics are a bit more minimalist and the music is more modernist than “Boys Don’t Cry”. With cool palm-muted clean guitars, it could fit in on the first Buzzcocks album Another Music from a Different Kitchen. The guitar solo also sounds like a surf song or a Shadows song. Maybe an unknown tune, but a pretty good one!

3. “10:15 Saturday Night”: The first song on the Three Imaginary Boys album, is the third song on Boys Don’t Cry. It was also the B-side of “Killing an Arab”. The song is about loneliness, a theme that would continue on the album. It was the song that gave the band their record deal with Fiction. I think there’s something jazzy about the music and the drum fills are fantastic .The guitar solo sounds like late-sixties Rolling Stones. The tune was sampled on Massive Attack’s “Man Next Door” and covered by the Living End.

4. “Accuracy”: Lyrically, it is a song of few words. It’s just about five lines long. In spite of that, it’s a very dark song. Genius.com states (about the song): “The title and refrain of this song, the word ¨accuracy¨ refers to the secret pleasure derived from fantasizing about attacking someone. If taken from a metaphorical perspective, Accuracy can pertain to the pinpointing of another person’s fears and demons. This roots from a generous amount of time spent with them – such as what happens within an intimate relationship.” Yep, dark shit right there! Where “10:15 Saturday Night” was a bit jazzy, I think “Accuracy” is more blues-y, but there’s a jazz-vibe here as well.

5. “Object”: A pretty cool classic rock-meets-post punk number about lust and objectification where Smith gets a very weird space-y voice. Very few words in this one as well. The song could be seen as having quite misogynist attitudes; the beholder here has at least not hold the beheld in very high esteem, except for their appearance. It’s also possible that the song is supposed to be a criticism of objectification and sexism. Robert Smith said in 1988 that it was his least favorite Cure song. The guitars are more distorted in this song than the previous songs and there’s a strange echo in Smith’s space-y voice.

6. “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”: As naïve as I am, I always imagined this song to literally be about freighthopping, but it’s meant to be metaphorical of course, even if the music video is just a train ride from London to Brighton. Reading the lyrics, however, it’s obvious that the song is about trendy bands jumping on bandwagons. And the particular trend that the song attacks is the mod-revival wave. In a Belgian magazine in 1989, Smith said “I loath (sic) the snobbism and elitism of it all: ‘I was already acid[-house music] when you were still new wave’ – that stuff. In fact it’s all as small as the ska revival where I wrote an angry song about: Jumping Someone Else’s Train. Now I read articles everywhere about the new ska revival. Despicable. At this rate, we’re having 5 revivals every year. I’m probably old fashioned, but I like music that’s not limited to a certain time.” And in the Cure News fanzine in October 1991, he said the song was about fashion, about the mod revival in 78/79. The single was released on November 2 1979 with the B-side “I’m Gold “ featuring vocals by Siouxsie Sioux. A new wave song, with a pop punk melody and another song that reminds me a lot of the Buzzcocks. The riff also forecasts the kind of lead we’d hear on later Cure songs such as “Just Like Heaven”.

7. “Subway Song”: Side-A ends with a mysterious song. A somewhat gloomy look into the London underground. The song tells the story of a girl walking in the subway station, she’s on her way home and she feels like she’s being followed. A dark and creepy aesthetic. There’s something about 70s/80s subway stations that give me an uncanny feeling and this song captures that. The music fits the lyrics quite well, with a blues-y bass line and a harmonica that sounds like railroad screeching.

8. “Killing an Arab”: The band’s first single released in September 20 1978. The lyrics are based on Albert Camus’s existentialist masterpiece L’Étranger (translated to The Outsider in the UK and the Stranger in the Us); a philosophical novel about the French Algerian Meursault who kills an Arab and later gets the death penalty, a great use of the unreliable narrator and a must-read for every literature enthusiast. The lyrics of the song are seen from the point of view of Meursault. While the chorus and the second verse are quite existentialist, the first verse deals with the actual killing of the Arab and where the Cure compilation Standing on a Beach got its name from. The song been controversial for years because it could be seen as justifying racism and violence against Arabs. The aforementioned compilation had a warning sticker on it, and Smith has many times had to defend the lyrics against racists. Playing the song live he has often changed the lyrics into i.e “Kissing an Arab” and “Killing an Ahab”(making it about another book). The fact that the one being killed is an Arab isn’t really as important in the book. What Meursault gets the death penalty for is not following the moral code of the prosecutors and jury. He went out to enjoy himself and had sex with a woman right after his mother died, also shows very little empathy, but most importantly he doesn’t believe in God. His moral fabric seems to be what puts him to death and not his crime itself. Appropriately the music is inspired by Arabian music.

8. “Fire in Cairo”: The Arabian theme continues on the next song “Fire in Cairo”, a quite erotic song where the fire and warmth are used as sexual symbolism. It’s my favorite song on the album, and my favorite Cure song in general. I think it’s a perfect recording, the bass lines and the guitars and the spelling out of “F-I-R-E-I-N-C-A-I-R-O”. It’s a song where spelling out a word really works, when doing that is usually quite embarrassing. I also love the way he sings “Silence and black mirror pool mirrors a lonely place where I meet you” When I first heard the song in 2013, I was completely blown away and loved it immediately. What Robert Smith says about the song, however, is that ‘“Fire in Cairo” is about pop shamelessness and what’s behind it.” I’m pretty sure the Barracudas’s “The KGB Made a Man out of Me” must’ve been inspired by this song.

9. “Another Day”: Another day, another minimalist set of lyrics. This time the repetitive nature of life is being described through looking out the window as if one sees a painting, while waiting for time to pass. There’s something bleak about most of these lyrics, but beautiful at the same time. “Another Day” appears very early on Three Imaginary Boys and very late on Boys Don’t Cry. The intro and outro here sound more like the mix of raga music and psychedelia that George Harrison made famous, while the rest of the song is normal mid-tempo ballad.

10. “Grinding Halt”: The darkness continues with “Grinding Halt”, where we are left with nothingness; “No sound, no people” and “no light, no people”. Interrupting and apathy; the perfect combo. One of the catchiest bass lines on the album and one of the songs I think that fits the pop punk term the most, but also has the cymbals that I like to think of as the post-punk or dance-punk cymbals that you can hear when Blink or the Wombats tries to do that thing. Also one of my favorites on this album.

11. “World War”: Along with “Object”, “World War” is another contender for Robert Smith least favorite Cure song, as he told Big Takeover it was their worst song back in 1996. And in 1991 he called the song “nonsense”. The lyrics start with “Dressed in Berlin Black” and the chorus states that no one loses and no one wins in war, you only end up with dead friends. It’s also one of the earliest Cure songs. It was removed from many cd-versions of the album. Another song that sounds more like a classic rock song: not the best song ever, but certainly not the worst.

12. “Three Imaginary Boys”: The title track of the Three Imaginary Boys album and the last song on both albums. The lyrics were based on a dream Smith had had. The lyrics are quite poetic and somewhat nonsensical (far more than “World War” I’d say, which seems pretty straight forward): “No one’s home/In amongst the statues/ Stare at nothing in/ The garden moves/Can you help me?” and “Close my eyes/ And hold so tightly/ Scared of what the morning brings/ Waiting for tomorrow Never comes/ Deep inside The empty feeling/ All the night time leaves me/ Three imaginary boys”. I’ve always imagined that the title refers to the band being a trio at the time, but I’m not sure if that’s the truth; it makes sense in the album title though. Another song where the mirror plays a role. I don’t know what’s up with Robert Smith and mirrors, but it’s got to be something. It starts with a slow clean guitar until the bass comes in with the drums and monotonous vocals until the song climaxes with distorted guitars crash in.

Bonus track: “It’s Not You”: Where there are many songs on Boys Don’t Cry that aren’t on Three Imaginary Boys, the same is also through vice versa. “It’s Not You” is one of the more punk Cure songs and it’s an angry one. It starts with “You wear your smile like it was going out of fashion/ Dress to inflame but douse any ideas of passion” and has the same bitterness that fellow post-punkers Wire have in the song “Mannequin” from their album Pink Flag, two years before. The second verse is even angrier with the line “I would murder you if I had the alibi” and it corresponds with the lyrics to “Accuracy”. There’s also a lot of spite in the chorus “Well, I’m tired of hanging around/ I want somebody new/I’m not sure who I’ve got in mind But I know that it’s not you!”

————————————————————————————————————

I don’t know if I’ve taken this column too far now, but we’ll go back to the classic 90s pop punk next time with Wish I’d Taken Pictures by Pansy Division.

cock_sparrer-shock_troops1-300x300

I have made a promise that this pick was going to be controversial. In the five years of this column (fuck!), I’ve made some crazy claims about what could be considered pop punk, anything from the Replacements to the Barracudas to Propagandhi have been labelled pop punk, it seems like no one is safe. Today’s target is a group of people with short hair, Chelsea cuts, Fred Perry polos and Doc Martin boots. Skinheads, I’m afraid to tell you that your favorite oi! Band is pop punk. Cock Sparrer are tough guys who aren’t afraid to shed a tear or express emotions, their image is tough, but their melodies are poppier than the Beatles and Cliff Richard all together. I feel like I’m about to get in trouble now. Cock Sparrer was originally called Cock Sparrow, a cockney symbol of familiarity. In Merriam Webster’s dictionary, it’s defined as “a cocky little man”. The band was formed as early as 1972. In the early years, they were inspired by glam rock and British Invasion bands such as the Small Faces and the Rolling Stones. Members Colin McFaull, Mick Beaufoy, Steve “Burge” Burgess and Steve Bruce had known each other since the age of eleven. They liked drinking and football, long before the oi! Genre even existed. Like their heroes, the Stones and the Small Faces, they signed to Decca Records, the label that famously rejected the Beatles, and covered the Stones song “We Love You” and the Small Faces song “Watcha Gonna Do about It?”. Before signing to Decca, they had been in contact with Malcolm McLaren, but refused to cut their hair like McLaren required and he turned the Sex Pistols into rocks stars instead. In 1978, they were dropped from Decca before even releasing a full length. The Rolling Stones cover and their own composition “Running Riot” were both flopping singles. Their early recordings were released on a self-titled album in Spain and on various compilations later in their career. They already had some really great tracks. “Trouble on the Terraces” is a song in defense of football hooligans. The band advertised that they were football hooligans, not punks. The song’s guitar solo is very similar to the simple guitar leads we associate with the likes of Screeching Weasel and the Queers. The best song from the old days is, in my opinion, “What’s It Like to Be Old?”; it’s interesting to look at how young rebellious teenagers wonder what it’s like to be old. Something they ironically comment on when they play the song live as older gentlemen. In 1994, they also released a song called “Because You’re Young” that was the exact opposite, an older person’s reflections on youth and the nihilism of the young.

I remember the first time I heard them was I 2005 or 2006 and I heard “Riot Squad” and thought it was a lovely song, but also was a bit baffled and wondered “is this oi!?”, it sounded like a rock song to me. For some reason I never really listened to them again until I early 2009 when I found Shock Troops in the local record shop for metal and punk music called Mefisto, a place that I sometimes miss. It completely blew me away right away and it quickly became a favorite of mine. A year later I got found the Cock Sparrer DVD in the legendary punk record shop Coretex in Kreuzberg, Berlin. That was around the same time I got to see other East end oi! Band Cockney Rejects, Stiff Little Fingers and the Cock Sparrer cover band Melanie and the Secret Army at the punk ‘n’ disorderly fest. I actually got to see Cock Sparrer themselves in Bergen in 2015. I remember it as a silver lining in a weekend full of distress and existential worry, I was reading Franz Kafka and wondered “who am I?” and I never really got the answer. I was also witness to some heavy drug use. I remember going out the following night after watching the first episode of Mr. Robot and being bummed out about all the terrible heavy metal music and being super stoked when the Ramones or the Jam came on, so when after that weekend I asked myself “who am I?”, my best answer was “some dude who likes Cock Sparrer, the Ramones and the Jam”.

Shock Troops was released in 1983 on Razor Records. The band was back after not playing for a while. The album cover shows a very military style image and it resonates with the album title and many of the song on the album. It was later re-released on Capitain Oi! With bonus tracks. The album art was made by Hudson McCleeve. The album was produced by the bandmembers themselves and engineered by Simon Bohannon.


1. “Where Are They Now?”: The band had been gone for a while when they returned, and they were not the only ones. In 1977, punk was a promising genre and subculture with its icons turning riot mainstream and turning rebellion into money. After a few years, punk was “dead” and post punk had become the new shit. To say punk was dead in the early 80s would be wrong, it had, however, gone underground and bands like the Exploited were exploiting the shit out of the punk image to the level of parody and across the globe, the music got faster and louder. The icons of the early punk days seemed to have moved on to something else and Cock Sparrer wondered where they had gone with the opening track “Where Are They Now?” The song references Julie Burchill, a militant feminist writer for the NME and her husband, Tony Parsons who also wrote for the NME, Joe Strummer who brought class struggle to punk, Jim Pursey of Sham 69 who told the kids to be united, the Roxy and Johnny Rotten swearing on television. The bridge also makes a reference to rock bands like the Who and Led Zeppelin. The song questions if the punk movement was ever worth it if it wasn’t going to follow up. The music is quite melodic compared to most of the punk music at the time. I think Colin McFaull sounds more like Fergal Sharkey than an oi! singer. Matt Kelly of Dropkick Murphys described Cock Sparrer as songwriters that could write pop songs on the back of the What You See Is What You Get DVD. On the same DVD, someone also compared CS to ABBA.

2. “Riot Squad”: Following the proud tradition of punk bands playing the melody of a police siren as an intro like the Clash did in “White Riot” and the Exploited did in “Cop Car”, “Riot Squad” tells an interesting story about an outsider and juvenile delinquent who decides to join the police force after not staying on his own and dreaming of being a criminal. He continues his violent ways as a cop and he gets blamed when something goes wrong and he is then back to being a criminal with the people he had harassed as a copper. The song stands out with its “whoah ah”’s and strong melody.

3. “Working”: The third song on the album, “Working”, is less poppy than its predecessors and is a serious song that shows the band’s working-class roots and, like many bands before and after the song, is about working. There is an indication that the person in the song is doing something illegal, like working under the table, not paying taxes and still getting benefit checks.

4. “Take ‘em All”: Always seemed like the story of the band so far and their deal with Decca. The imagery of the song is rather violent. In many ways, it’s another class statement. It’s talking about taking rich rock stars, bigshots in the business and other West End bourgeoise bigwigs and shooting them. Along with “Riot Squad”, it’s one of the band’s most characteristic songs. The second verse is, the way I interpret it, sung from Decca’s perspective, giving reasons why they ditched them and telling them to go back to the factory. From comments on Songmeanings.com, it seems like there is more to the story and it is actually about EMI who tried to sign them but ended up signing the Sex Pistols instead. The beat in the song sounds like it’s straight out of a football match, which of course fits the band perfectly.

5. “We’re Coming Back”: This is really a beautiful ballad in oi! form. I’ve heard this described as a song for West Ham F.C, a song about Jesus and simply about the band themselves. I guess it’s just about having someone for you when you’re down or someone having your back when you’re in trouble whether it’d be your group of friends, your religion, your sports team or your favorite band. It’s one of the songs that really separates Cock Sparrer from other oi! bands. Many bands sing about unity and sticking up for each other, but few take it to such an emotional level as this.

6. “Watch Your Back”: The first songs on side B are maybe the most controversial ones, but also two of the best tunes. In a time of the National Front and the far-right recruiting skinheads and working-class white kids and the left still being revolutionary and Thatcher sending soldiers to the Falklands, Cock Sparrer writes two apolitical songs. “Watch Your Back” is dedicated to the left, talking about revolution and smashing the state and compares their political methods to the holocaust. The song criticizes both the left and the right and accuses people with political interests of exploiting the working-class and doesn’t separate between the radical left and the far right. In a Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll interview from 2015 they were asked what they thought of the right using their music for racist purposes and answered Steve Bruce: “Get a life.” Mickey Beaufoy: “The same way that I feel about left-wing extremists doing the same thing—both extremes are as bad as the other. I prefer the sentiments of “Right Wing, Left Wing full of hate—we don’t want to fight”.” Daryl Smith: “The same way as I’d feel if anyone tried to use our songs for any form of extremism, left or right—you just don’t get it.” The song has resulted in the band being accused of being fence-sitters. In many ways, this song is still relevant today.

7. “I Got Your Number”: The apolitical extravaganza continues. What exactly this song refers to is unclear to me, but I think it has to do with political press that feeds propaganda, but the Cock Sparrer guys won’t fall for it. They see the political ideologies of the people they’re singing about as outdated and, like “Watch Your Back”, they are possibly talking about both sides. The chorus ends “I got your number, I ain’t ever gonna toe that particular party line”, here we see someone who refuses to pick a side between what they see as two extremes. I find these lyrics to be clever as there is an ambiguity. “I got your number” means seeing someone’s true colors and seeing through their agenda, but I also get telephone associations. “I ain’t ever gonna toe that particular party line” means not conforming to a specific political ideology, but a party line was also a local loop telephone circuit, making another telephone association. I don’t know if I’m looking too much into it, but I like this connection. The melody is also pop music at its finest. I would like to hear Billie Joe Armstrong sing this for some reason. Definitely the best Cock Sparrer song to me.

8. “Secret Army”: When the song starts with a bomb, we know we’re about to enter some real shit. “Secret Army” is about terrorism and most likely about the IRA. Except “Take ‘em all”, Cock Sparrer often represent themselves as a pacifist band. The song describes the horrors, hopelessness and disillusionment that terrorism inflicts on ordinary people. People in organizations meant to harm families and innocent people to make political points and idealists sacrificing their lives to fight for their cause and kill other people at the same time. Some of the most heartbreaking lyrics here: “When a bomb goes off in a city street/ When a man gets killed for his beliefs/ When a mother cries for the son she had/ That’s when the world’s gone mad”. I’m not sure if there’s a connection between the song and the tv series from a few years before with the same name.

9. “Droogs Don’t Run”: The penultimate song on the original album is probably the least great tune on the album. The word “droog” is from the novel Clockwork Orange and means friend, in that way it’s a punkier version of “We’re Coming Back”. It’s not bad, and it definitely gets you prepared for the actual ballad of the album.

10. “Out on an Island”: The last song sounds way more like David Bowie than it sounds like oi! or pop punk. It continues in the pacifist tone we’ve heard earlier in the album. I would say it’s also the closest to an actual political song we get on the record. It’s about someone deserting from the army. It shows that being part of the army or being recruited to a war takes away someone’s sense of individualism and the line “Every number’s a hero and every hero’s a son/ But every son’s just a number when the battles begun” echoes the line quoted in “Secret Army”. Sometimes it seems like people ignore that war affects real people and even more people that it is the individual that gets killed. The pacifist message of the song is so strong and it’s rather contradictory to the album title, album cover and the overall imagery of the band. A fantastic way to end an album.

I’m also including two bonus tracks:

Bonus Track 1 “Argy Bargy”: This song is about radio DJ Terry Christian who later hosted the tv show The Devil’s Advocate. Again, this song reminds me more of the Undertones or the Buzzcocks than The Business or 4 Skins. Christian also was a friend of the Buzzcocks’s drummer John Maher. ‘Argy bargy’ is an expression that means to argue, new wave band Squeeze also had an album called Argybargy. It was the B-side to the “England Belongs to Me” single.

Bonus Track 2: “England Belongs to Me”: Another controversial song for the band. The single was released in 1982. I guess this is a song that is a little patriotic for my taste, but a great song nonetheless. It’s such a powerful song that people from across the world join in the Anglophilia. The song describes the dirty waters of England and the glory days of the British Empire. According to a review in buzz mag the song was introduced with ““It’s not about racism,” McFaull says, “it’s about belonging”;” I also think there’s a football element to the song. There was a FIFA world cup in 1982 and I feel like the lyrics could relate just as much to the football team England as the country. Another interesting aspect is that they sing about, the “red, white and blue” relates more to the Union Jack than the English flag. If “our boys” doesn’t mean the football players, it would mean soldiers fighting for England, something that again contradicts the more pacifist songs on the album.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

So is this really a pop punk album? I definitely think so, if you can call any early punk album pop punk, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s a classic for sure. And if you thought we couldn’t move further from actual pop punk. The next album up is The Cure’s American album Boys Don’t Cry.

R-3734972-1363592388-4773.jpeg

Let’s go back to the 70s again. Let’s face it- both punk and pop punk music were the best back then. This time, we are going to Scotland. We are going to a classic album that combined the aggression of punk rock, the innovation of new wave and the poppiness of 60s pop groups. The band is of course the Rezillos. Inspired by 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll, cartoons and science fiction movies Joe Callis and Alan Forbes started the band in 1976 in the ashes of the cover band Knutsford Dominators that they started in college. Along with the Misfits, The Cramps and B-52s in the US the Rezillos were part of starting a tradition that linked B-movies with punk and new wave music. Connecting punk rock to the novelty music of the 50s and 60s and the Rocky Horror Show.

In an interview (http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=3519), Callis said the following about the band name “There was an early 70’s DC comic called ‘The Shadow’ . The Shadow was a real pulp fiction character. The very first issue of that comic has in one of its pictures the Shadow standing there with his two guns and his mask. There is a street scene in the background and what was meant to be either a club or a bar. It was actually called “Revilos” with one “L” and we took that and changed the letter to a “Z”. I think we probably had the name before we had the band.” Forbes changed his name to Eugene Reynolds and sang the male vocals in the band. Fay Fife did the female vocals. The two lead singers sang about half in half and often did vocal trade offs and callbacks. In 1977, they signed to the same label as the Ramones (Sire Records). Journalist Ian Cranmer, who hated the band at first, decided to help them out by contacting his pen pal in Sire Records to aid the band in releasing their major label debut “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”. They signed to Sire as an eight piece, and ended up a five piece because many of the members didn’t want to quit their day jobs and didn’t see a future in working with music. I always found their record fascinating and decided to buy the LP in early 2012. I was told it was quite a rare pressing. The Rezillos changed their name to Revillos (with two L’s) and made some records without Callis, but they re-united and made the album Zero in 2015.

Can’t Stand the Rezillos was released on July 21 1978 on Sire Records and was recorded in the Power Station in New York. Quite fitting to the album, the album cover looks like a comic book. It was produced by Bob Clearmountain, Tony Bongiovi, Lance Quinn and the Rezillos. It peaked at #16 in the UK album chart. As well as Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds on vocals and Jo Callis on guitar; Mysterious (AKA Alastair Donaldson) played bass (and sax at the bonus live recording) and Angel Paterson played drums. The album peaked at #16 on the UK album chart.
——————————————————————————————————————————–
1. “Flying Saucer Attack”: The album opens with a sci-fi themed song. A catchy song about the dangers of an alien invasion. The earth’s citizens in this song fear the horrors of Venus and Mars. Nothing can protect earth from this invasion. The verses are sung by Fay and the choruses are sung by Eugene. The protagonist in the choruses is planning to leave earth and not come back until the attack is over. The melody kind of has this American folk vibe going for it and the bass line is classic Rezillos. The guitar also has a nice rock ‘n’ roll touch to it. They also rhyme “horizon” with “flies on”. The same theme is found on the non-album single “Destination Venus”.

2. “No”: While “Flying Saucer Attack” was pretty much pop punk, “No” is more of a straight up punk song. The song is the anthem for the angry young punks who are denied their teenage requests. The first two verses this little guy is asking his parents if he’s allowed to go out and have fun, but as the title of the song is “No”, you can guess their answer. In the third verse, he is trying to get his “baby” to go out and have fun with him, but guess what, she says “No” too. There’s almost something Freudian or Lacanian about the song, the mother’s “No” being the child’s first disappointment and all. In one of the biggest comedy shows in Norway “Åpen Post”, the music part of the first episode was the Norwegian rock band Dum Dum Boys playing a version of “No”.

3. “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Heads Kicked in Tonight”: This is another quite punk number, maybe even punker. For some reason, when I think of “punk”, this is what I think of. The original isn’t necessarily that punk. It appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s “Man of the World” single as the B-side. It was credited to Earl Vice and the Valiants, even if Fleetwood Mac played it. It was sung and composed by Jeremy Spencer. The Rezillos cover became more of a classic.

4. “Top of the Pops”: And now for the band’s biggest hit by far. “Top of the Pops” is a satirical view on the music industry. Bands get fame and then they’re out. And the Wall Street of the music industry (in Britain at the time) was Top of the Pops. A music show where the artists on the charts would come and lip-sync the shit out of their hits. We’ve also seen bands like Stiff Little Fingers, Green Day and Nirvana make fun of the show by showing that they did not actually sing themselves. Bands would pre-record their hit before lip-syncing it on the show, but most bands would just lip-sync their single. The Ramones performed “Baby I Love You” (their biggest UK hit) on the show and it was just Joey lip-syncing and the band pretending to play and an orchestra pretending to play. Much ado about lip-syncing. Blink-182 sounded like Blink-182 though, so either pre-recorded their song live or they actually played live and the show has started to allow actual live-performances. It sure as fuck wasn’t the singles. But yeah, back to the Rezillos, the song really makes fun of the show and how it makes music into a money game, or maybe the show just symbolizes the consumerist aspect of the music industry in general. It’s really where the trade-offs of Eugene’s weird vocals and Fay’s Scottish accent really stand out. It reminds me a lot of The Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star” and predates it by a year. As mentioned earlier, “Top of the Pops” became their biggest hit and charted at #17 and they “performed” it on the actual show twice. I remember reading somewhere that the song was played frequently on the show because of the title. I can’t find the source however, so don’t take my word for it. Looking, however, I found a fun fact on Fay’s name. The word “fae” is used for “from” in the Scottish county Fife, so her name is a pun on “from Fife”, where she actually is from.

5. “2000 A.D: Another science fiction themed song. It is most likely a reference to the comic book series that was first published the year before in 1977. Kind of like Orwell’s 1984 and Blade Runner, it’s strange to think of works that were futuristic at the time, but now are far in the past. The comic book was where the comic book hero Judge Dredd was first introduced. He appeared in the Specials song “Stupid Marriage” a couple of years later. And synthpop band the Human League had a song called “I am the Law” about Judge Dredd in 1981. After the Rezillos John Callis would join the Human League and be part of writing some of their biggest hits like “Don’t You Want Me” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, but not “I am the Law”, ironically. “2000 A.D”, in many ways, comments on the unrealities of the comic book.

6. “It Gets Me”: The only song on the album that is solely written by Mysterious. The lead vocals are all done by Fay in this one. It’s another tune where her accent really stands out. I also think all the back up vocals are female in this one as well and it shares the nr 1 spot for me as “best song on the album”. Even if it is a quite a poppy tune, the ending is kind of depressing. It describes how seasons change and uncertainties of the future: “I don’t know if I’ll be here by the turning of the year”. It also uses the word “uncool”, something that continues in the next track. I really love the way she sings “it gets me”. Pretty much a perfect song!

7. “I Can’t Stand My Baby”: While “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” was the band’s major label debut single, their first single ever was another song with “baby” in the title and also the song that titled the entire album, seemingly. I assumed the song was about someone who hates their significant other, but now I see that it also could be about a young parent that hates their child and would rather want to be a child themselves, while also realising that they have become old and boring and can’t stand the noise anymore and would rather be uncool and listen to classical music. Another song that Fay primarily sings lead vocals on.

8. “Glad All over”: Side two of the LP opens with a cover of Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All over”, which I think was inspired by the song of the same name by Carl Perkins. The song was written by Clark himself and bandmate Mike Smith. The Rezillos cover pretty much stays true to the original, despite the more punky vibe. Fay and Eugene share the vocals and sound great together. The song also gained some notoriety in Dr. Frank’s novel King Dork. Tom Henderson (AKA King Dork) loved the song and interpreted the lyrics as being about sex and having an orgasm. He also uses it as a euphemism for having an orgasm. Christian drummer, Todd, wanted to sing “He makes me feel glad all over” and make it be about Jesus, something King Dork wasn’t a fan of.

9. “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”: I think this song pretty much sticks out on the album. I think it’s a lot more new wave or rock ‘n’ roll than pop punk or punk. The song is about a lad who has a girlfriend who does sculptures and that is why he loves her. She doesn’t seem to care about one-night stands and naughty boys. Their relationship seems to be based on her artistic abilities and her shaping sculptures of him. The bass is also quite important for this song. This one is sung by Eugene. Along with “It Gets Me” this is my favorite song on the album. Self-important me, wanted you all to know that!

10. “I Like it”: A cover of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ classic. The first time I heard this (the original that is) was on the English television series Heartbeat, which I believe is bigger in Norway than it is in the UK. It’s still airing like every day! I’ve loved this tune since I was a kid. The song was written by Mitch Murray who wrote Gerry and the Pacemakers’ first single “How Do You Do It?”. It was actually written for the Beatles, but they didn’t want to release it as a single, but GatP did and had a #1 hit with it in the UK. Following up, I believe John Lennon wanted the other Liverpudlians to record his song “Hello Little Girl”. Instead they went with another Murray composition; “I Like It”, and it also went to #1. And their third single also went to nr 1, I think and became the official song of a sports team the band apparently didn’t support, but this isn’t ESPN, so let’s not focus on this. Like “Glad All Over” the Rezillos version is a punked up one that is pretty much true to the original. I like it!

11. “Getting Me Down”: With an intro that sounds a bit like the Surfaris’ “Wipeout”, “Getting Me Down” is probably the least memorable song on the album, but still quite an enjoyable tune. The lyrics have a really sad vibe to them. It’s about plans that went down the drain, not having money and just wanting to leave, because your town is getting you down. I can relate to it in many ways. I like the line “Living, not existing/ that’s the thing to me”. Just the idea that there is more to life than just existing and wanting to find that thing is probably something that never gets old.

12. “Cold Wars”: The surf-inspiration from “Getting Me Down” continues on “Cold Wars”. The solo is a fantastic little surf jangle and it adds a lot to an otherwise great tune. The song itself is a really good one. The intro is probably the most Ramones sounding intro they have. It also has the naïve and somewhat silly lyrics about serious topics like the Ramones did; “Cold wars are cooling me down”.

13. “Bad Guy Reaction”: Another rock ‘n’ roll song. Finishes the album on what I would call a glamrock-y note. To me it’s the combo of “Ballroom Blitz” and the Ramones’ “Ignorance is Bliss”. The lyrics sound like they could be an oi! Song. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, but the chorus ends with “you only try to put me down”. The chorus in “Cold Wars” goes “Cold wars are cooling me down” and “Getting Me Down”, goes, well “getting me down”, but I see a pattern here! I think it finishes the album on an entirely different note than “Flying Saucer Attack” and shows the diversity of the album.

—————————————————————————————————————
In the next one, we are going to skip like three or four years forward and continue in the oi! genre. The ultimate album for tough guys in army clothing and skinned haircuts. The songs are more pop than ABBA though; the songs are definitely more ABBA than they are The Business. I’m of course talking about Shock Troops by Cock Sparrer. Skinheads are gonna hate me after this….

husker du new day rising

I think I’ve finally drifted away from what could in any way be considered pop punk, I wanted to go with 1985’s Flip Your Wig, because it’s more pop, and that did seem like a good idea or Candy Apple Grey, because it’s even more pop, but maybe lacking a bit of the punk. So when talking about Hüsker Dü as a pop punk band I definitely think Flip Your Wig would be the ultimate choice, but thinking about it, I prefer New Day Rising and regardless of ‘pop-punkness’, I feel like I’ll have more to write about. My history with this band, goes quite a while back. I remember being in a record store in Manchester in October 2002, around my 13th birthday. At the time I mostly looked around for rare blink-182 records and even a Bowling For Soup single seemed underground to me. That’s when I discovered the magazine section at this punk record store. I don’t think I was even familiar with Nirvana at the time, so the name Big Cheese was to me a very strange name for a magazine, but I think they did an interview with New Found Glory and for some reason I read a lot of NFG interviews at the time. Big Cheese also did a story in this issue on Hüsker Dü and I thought they were Norwegian because of their name, which in most Scandinavian languages means “Do you remember(?)”. Husker du was also the name of a Norwegian radio show that played evergreens back in the day, before evergreens were ever green even. The ¨’s above the “u”’s are strange because they are usually used in German for the /y/ vowel sound that never occurs in English, and English speaking people usually pronounce ü as a /u/ rather than an /y/ or /ü/ (I’m not sure if these two phonemes are identical, but they pretty much sound the same). We can hear this in the Dead Kennedys’ “California über Alles”, so when English readers are reading the name Hüsker Dü it makes more sense to pronounce it like Scandinavians would pronounce “husker du”.  For some reason, I didn’t even listen to Hüsker Dü until 2007. I think I wrote about this in my Ergs article like four years ago, time flies. I bought the album Everything Falls Apart(and More) because I thought it was the greatest title of all time and it corresponded with my life at the time, realising it was actually just titled Everything Falls Apart and the ‘more’ part was just the bonus tracks bummed me out a lot. I didn’t like the album much either, I did, however think that it was cool they did have a song called “Do You Remember?”.

For some reason, I always associate Hüsker Dü with days that seemed dramatic for some reason. After hearing “Makes No Sense At All” on Weasel Radio I decided to get more into Hüsker Dü and I remember going to the record store on March 17 2008 and listened to three albums. Zen Arcade and New Day Rising by HD and Float by Flogging Molly- it was St. Patrick’s Day after all. I remember it as a day of hopelessness and fear that something bad would happen.  Zen Arcade, was like Everything Falls Apart, a bit too noisy for my gentle ears. I guess I thought the same about New Day Rising at the time, but I’ll get back to that. The Flogging Molly album disappointed me as well. After that I culturally appropriated Guinness beer. A few Sundays after that I went and bought Flip Your Wig as it had “Makes No Sense At All” on it and because the title reminded me of the Screeching Weasel song “Six AM” and a Beatles documentary I had just seen where they would sell Moptop wigs and say “Flip your wig”. After that I gave myself the nickname “Wig flipper”.

Hüsker Dü was founded by and always employed by Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton. Three boys that apparently should be beware of the thing that only eats hippies. They started in 1979 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The name was, regardless of the Norwegian radio show, named after board game with a Scandinavian name from the US. Everything Falls Apart was released on their own and Terry Katzman’s label Reflex, but from Zen Arcade up to Candy Apple Grey they were on the Black Flag label SST. Minutemen’s New Alliance also released the live album Land Speed Record, and Dead Kennedys also had their alternative tentacles around it. Candy Apple Grey was their major label debut on Warner Bros. It was also their first album to chart on the Billboard album chart. HD’s last album was Warehouse: Songs and Stories, also on WB. After that Bob Mould formed Sugar, who made one of my favorite songs in “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”.

New Day Rising was released January 1985 on SST, but recorded in the summer of 1984 in Nicollet studios in Minneapolis. It was produced by Hüsker Du and Spot and engineered by Steve Fjeldstad. I don’t know who did the artwork, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful album covers ever. I mean, look at it! I have a t-shirt with the logo on it and it’s one of my favorite t-shirts just because of its beauty. The album didn’t actually dominate the charts, but it reached #10 on the UK Indie Chart

—————————————————————————————————————————–

1. “New Day Rising”: For some reason, I thought of Green Day the first time I heard this song. There are basically just three words in the entire song, which is the title. It, in a way, manages to become somewhat of a classic, but at the same time be kind of a pointless song. I see it as an into to the rest of the album: a two minute repetition of the album title and the distorted guitars and the transition to a more melodic singing style from Zen Arcade. It shows us what’s ahead, and what’s ahead is great, so I guess this song is great too. Not only does it sound like something great beginning, but it also sounds like a new day rising.

2. “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”: This track reminds me a bit of Hank Williams’ “Mansion on the Hill” thematically, but also quite the opposite. The male voice of Williams’ song laments the loss of his former love and watches her from his cabin. He uses wealth as a metaphor for loneliness and almost romanticises poverty. The woman in the song lives in a mansion with riches, but without love, an ongoing theme in Williams’ songs. In the Hüsker Dü song, the narrator visits a girl who lives in a cabin. She lives a life of poverty with worn-out clothes, a worn-out doormat and even a worn-out smile. The seemingly infatuated narrator paints her as a messy girl with a messy cabin who waits for him to come visit her with a bottle of booze. He would trade mountains and rooms of gold to be with her, but we don’t know from the lyrics if he possesses any gold, I’m sure he doesn’t have any mountains. So in that aspect, it fits the Williams song quite well. “Mansion on the Hill” says that diamonds and gold can’t live up to romantic love, but a common theme in his songs are also that diamonds and gold can’t live up to salvation from God. There’s also a religious aspect of “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”. Heaven Hill could be a metaphor for Heaven or paradise, it’s in the name. To the narrator, gold would definitely be tradable for the paradise that is the girl’s love. I don’t know if there’s a place that’s actually called Heaven Hill, but there’s a whiskey brand with that name. It could possibly be the bottle she keeps up on her mantelpiece. In that case, the title has a double meaning. Musically, the song is quite more melodic than anything on Zen Arcade and other earlier Hüsker Dü albums. It’s also written by Grant Hart, drummer of the band. He also penned some of my favorite Hüsker Dü tunes like “Every Everything”, “Green Eyes” and their probably biggest hit “I Don’t Wanna Know If You’re Lonely”. Hart died in September of 2017.

3. “I Apologize”: Another Hart track from Candy Apple Grey is “Sorry Somehow”, a song about apologies and a forgiveness that will seemingly never come. Bob Mould explored this theme before Hart in “I Apologize”, a great pop punk track and one of Mould’s best in my opinion. The protagonist in the song says accusations from another person about them is floating around and even if they apologize they don’t only expect forgiveness, but an apology in return. Troy Taylor in a blog series about Rolling Stone’s top albums,( https://vinylthriftchaser.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/487-husker-du-new-day-rising-1985/ ) says that it’s what they’d imagine “An R.E.M hardcore track would sound like”. The album was #495 on Rollin Stone’s top 500 albums of all time, hence inclusion in Taylor’s blog.

4. “Folk Lore”: The more ‘hardcore’ tune “Folk Lore” satirizes and criticises longing for the past and lists negative features of bygone years including gender roles and inequality and low incomes. It is also a criticism of the times (1984 sucked, just ask George Orwell who didn’t even live then). While women want equal rights, men still cheat on their wives and privileged kids would rather play video games than go to school and learn to hate the world. The song doesn’t glamorize or romanticize any era, says that some things change and some don’t, but either way the world sucks. Which is true!

5. “If I Told You”: Here we have something rare- a songwriting collaboration between Mould and Hart. The lyrics are quite simple and is about vulnerability. It’s also about crying and the person you love the most not being there for you when things are rough. The song is sung by Hart. The guitar work on this track is interesting. It’s simple and the guitar is quite distorted, but there are nice melodies hidden behind it. By the end Mould and Hart sing on top of each other. It’s a great ending to the song.

6. “Celebrated Summer”: Every time I hear this intro I get taken back to St.Patrick’s Day in 2008 when I first heard it, and every summer after that. I remember thinking the album was very loud and angry and while more melodic than Zen Arcade (which I also heard), it was a bit too noisy for my tastes. “Celebrated Summer”, however, really caught my ears. Everything from the beautiful electric guitar intro to the little break where only the bass plays to the beautiful vocal melody of the song and to the 12-string acoustic breakdown by the end. The opening line of this nostalgic summer number is “love and hate was in the air”, leaving the ambivalence of bygone years kick in for the listener, if they manage to hear what the hell Bob Mould is singing. Mould’s lyrics in the song are overall fantastic, with these lines taking the cake “Do you remember when/ The first snowfall fell?/ When summer barely had/ A snowball’s chance in hell?”. What the song asks the most is “was this/that your celebrated summer?”. The way I interpret it, the question is asked in relation to the idea that students and pupils spend most of the year in school and many in a cold environment and so when school is out and the sun is up, how do you spend it? How do you make the best out of such a situation? How do you spend your golden years? Do you waste it getting wasted? It’s an age-long question and maybe the question “was this your celebrated summer?” is an impossible question to answer, except maybe years later, reminiscing of when you were still in school and summer breaks meant something and you would have every day off and listen to your favorite songs, possibly “Celebrated Summer” by Hüsker Dü. The song captures something both extremely fun and liberating, but at the same time something quite sad and melancholic. The song was released as a promo single in December 1984. Anthrax made a cover of this song for some reason. There’s also a record store in Baltimore, Maryland called “Celebrated Summer”.

7. “Perfect Example”: The melodic music continues. “Perfect Example” is a bit more sombre and laid-back and is also driven by an acoustic guitar. An alternative rock number that would probably inspire lots of alternative rock band in the years to come. The song is about holding on to the past even when it hurts. It’s about losing your mind, but not your memory as Mould eloquently puts it. Here is more poetry from the man himself: “I never look back at it, but it’s always in front of me/ It’s always worth the hurt, but I know it’s hurting me/ I’ll never let go of it because it’s all that’s going for me/ I’ll put it in the past when the past is history”. It starts with Hart doing something cool with his sticks.

8. “Terms of Psychic Warfare”: Where we’ve been blessed with so many great guitar intros, this time we finally got a cool bass intro. The song itself isn’t that melodic, but there is so much melody in the actual music. Some weird and cool harmonies on this one. It’s also a quite short song. This is another Grant Hart track and it’s like I’ve implied, not as melodic as his other tunes. The lyrics show that Hart is also great with words. The song describes an ended relationship and one of the people involved seemed to be in a whole lot of trouble, and it seems like the other person, the “I” person isn’t handling it that well either. Where Hart’s character in “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” would trade gold to be with that girl, the character in this one claims no stolen silver can buy a piece of what he feels. He sees the way they treat each other as some sort of war, a psychic war.

9. “59 Times the Pain”: Seems to me more like a poem set to music. Even if the words are Mould’s, it’s quite similar, lyrically, to its predecessor. I feel like there’s an ongoing theme on the entire album about longing for the past, but also sort of looking back on it in sadness. Looking at pictures from the past don’t help, it only makes it worse. The only thing that’s left with living on your own is bitterness.

10. “Powerline”: The melody of the intro sounds pretty much like a pop punk song, while the actual sound of the guitar, to me, sounds like, wait for it….. a powerline. The chorus goes, “hear the power in the lines”. The song doesn’t continue being as melodic as the intro is, but it’s a great track and a strange topic to write a song about.

11. “Books about UFO’s”: Yet another song from Hart. Like “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”, this story about a female is written from the point of view of someone who seems or is romantically infatuated with her. “Books about UFOs” is about a woman who goes to the library to check out books about space and extraterrestrial life and buys some oranges to eat while reading them. While she observes the sky looking for life from another planet hoping she is being observed by grey alien, possibly without being aware that she is being watched by another earthling who wants to find a new planet just to name it after her. Along with “Celebrated Summer” it’s the song I remember the most from Paddy’s Day 2008 and I still love it. The melody is poppy and cheery and while there’s a cool piano here the other instruments are noisy as hell, but for some reason there’s also something that reminds me of Billy Joel there. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s his voice, or the melody or the back-up vocals. But yeah Billy Joel.

10. “I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About”: Back to the punk! This is pretty much a classic punk track. Mould is angry and the protagonist in the song yells that they don’t know what the other person is talking about. The other person seems smart and educated, but to the protagonist their words seem meaningless. It’s quite a rocking one indeed.

11. “How to Skin a Cat”: And now to the weirdest part of this entire album. The lyrics are basically a very weird poem about feeding rats to cats and vice versa. It starts up with what sounds like someone either lighting a match or blowing out a candle. It’s like the punk version of the Beatles’ “Revolution 9”. It either sounds like criticism of the animal skinning industry or a sort of sadistic math problem. Read the lyrics, they are really something!

12. “Whatcha Drinkin’”: Another hardcore punk track with very repetitive lyrics. This person really doesn’t care what the other person is drinking, or do they? Seems strange to go on this much about not caring about someone else’s choice of beverage. The music is really great though!

13. “Plans I Make”: Like “How to Skin a Cat”, the lyrics to this song are written by Mould and the music by the entire band. It starts off with something that could easily be a Led Zeppelin song, but luckily for us it’s not! The lyrics are like, “Whatcha Drinkin’” very repetitive and only consists of “I gotta make plans for the plans I make/ Gotta have friends for the friends I make”. A quite noisy finish to the album and in many ways a throwback to the earlier Hüsker Dü records. I would say half the song is just a whole lot of noisy sounds.
———————————————————————————————————————-

So overall this isn’t really a pop punk record, but it’s definitely a classic! I hope it won’t be too long until the next article. The album up next is Can’t Stand the Rezillos by The Rezillos.

Related image

I was unsure which Lagwagon album I should go with. I knew that it would either be Double Plaidinum or Let’s Talk about Feelings. I decided to go with the latter, as I think it’s a stronger album, even if they’re both good albums. In fact, I prefer the acoustic versions of the DP songs. Hoss is also of course a pretty good album. And there are a couple songs on Trashed that I love a lot too. I saw them in the 02 in Islington, London in 2012 and I realized I didn’t know many of their songs. I also realized that the songs I knew the best were those from LTaF, so I guess that’s another reason for writing about that particular album. I also realize that writing about this album also might be a challenge as I’m not even that familiar with this one, and that I’m starting to run out of albums to write about. Another good reason is that it’s twenty years since the release.

Lagwagon started in 1988, so a year before I was born. This means another anniversary. Happy 30th, dudes! The name stems from the car that Joey Cape (singer and songwriter) and his brother’s mother picked them up with in school. She was apparently always late, so they named the car “the Lagwagon” and that’s how Joey got his band name. The Big Bitch, Chris Flippin, was another founding member of the band. Lagwagon, along with No Use For a Name, Propagandhi and obviously NOFX have helped to develop the infamous “Fat Wreck sound”. They, however, started as a more of a thrash metal inspired band. They got signed to Fat and released their debut album Duh in 1992, it was produced by Fat Mike himself. The thrash influence is heavy here, but also the melodies that they would later get known for. In 1994, they went from thrash to trash. Trashed continued some of the heavier stuff as on Duh, as well as a reference to their last album in the song “Lazy” (does the word “duh mean anything to you?”, which I think is also a Buffy reference). Trashed is a step up and has many great songs, like “Know It All”, “Whipping Boy”, “Going South” and the Dischord tribute “Dis’ Chords”, and let’s not forget the Van Morrison cover “Brown Eyed Girl”. A year later, they would release Hoss, which gave us an album cover with Hoss from Bonanza and the Lagwagon staple “Violins”. With Double Plaidinum in 1997, they took a more pop punk turn and with songs like “Alien 8” and “Confession”, I think Joey Cape developed as a songwriter. I also really love the album cover. DP was also the first album without founding drummer Derrick Plourde after he left the band. I believe he wrote the song “Coffee and Cigarettes” (and the music to many of the songs on Trashed). In 2003, he and Joey Cape would start a side-project called Bad Astronaut, but in 2005, Plourde committed suicide. Fat Mike wrote the opening verse of “Doornails” about Plourde (“These two shots are for Derrick/ For rifle not the handgun”, “Rifle” is another song Derrick wrote, and he shot himself with a handgun) and Lagwagon made the music video “Heartbreaking Music” as a tribute to him. Gimme Gimmes drummer Dave Raun has been playing drums in Lagwagon since Derrick left. After Blaze in 2003, they went in an even poppier direction, but sometimes we hear that same thrash influence there. They continue to make albums, Hang being the latest one. They also released a box set called Putting Music in Its Place.

Let’s Talk about Feelings was released on Fat Wreck Chords November 24 1998. The album cover is a girl with glasses smiling awkwardly with braces and saying “Let’s talk about feelings”. The artwork was made by Mark DeSalvo. The album was produced by Joey Cape and Ryan Greene and recorded in Motor Studios. It was mastered by Ramón Betón and mixed by Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton of the Blasting Room. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate is Joey Cape’s lyrics, so I think those will be a focus when I look into these tracks more closely. It also seems that his lyrics are sometimes a bit hard to understand, so I hope I don’t totally misinterpret them.

1. “After You My Friend”: From my readings of this song, it seems to be a combination of “Alien 8” and “Whipping Boy”. A story of a break-up and a man, or a pitiful pin-up boy, that’s left pretending that he doesn’t care about his own feelings and tries to alienate himself from his friends and his feeling. He’s trying to embrace being lonely instead of embracing his relationship. His friends pity him for his loneliness, but he doesn’t care. He tries to escape from his emotions, but deep inside he knows he can’t. It would hurt his pride to show emotion. When in doubt about lyrical meanings, I head to the intellectual punk rock breeding ground of songmeanings.com. Some users seemed to share my point of view about loneliness and trying to hide it and your friends offering their pity. Some also thought of the female in the song as someone who has died. The most common theory is that he has killed her and is now on death row. One user even claimed Mr. Cape had said it was about a murderer on death row himself. I think the most interesting theory was a combination. That the murderer on death row is an analogy for the guy who has been dumped and is trying to find his place in loneliness even if no one understands him. Let’s not forget the bossa nova thing in the bridge!

2. “Gun in Your Hand”: It seems to me that these lyrics are about mental illness. And it gets hard not to think about what I’ve written about earlier in the article. I don’t, however, think this song is about suicide. I think the gun in the song is more about something that ruins your life, it could be depression or drug abuse. This isn’t a gun that will kill you right away, but you’ll survive the first thousand shots, meaning it’s something that will gradually kill you. I think the lines “It only breaks you until you get off/ I’m not gonna watch you kill yourself to live” also somehow indicate these sentiments. Again, it seems that this analysis also is very present on Songmeanings.com. Though one user claimed that the gun was something positive, a power to control your life and drives you to do the things you want to do, by pulling the trigger. Another user claimed the gun was the search for success, but by trying to be successful you kill your mental health and yourself in the process, it could be compared to NOFX’s “The Death of John Smith” or “All His Suits Are Torn”, which again are reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. I’m guessing it could also be based on the movie Swimming with Sharks, which it has a sample from.

3. “Leave the Light on”: At first glance, this seemed like another break-up number. The protagonist wants to see the person that broke up with them again, if not to rebuild their relationship, but to get closure. “I’d do anything to bring you back to say goodbye”. Re-reading it, I think it’s obvious that it’s about someone close who has died and I still think my interpretation is right when it comes to closure. Everyone wants to bring the person back to life, but the protagonist wants a chance to say goodbye. Songmeanings.com agreed with both these interpretation. The song is dedicated to someone called Sasha and Dennis in the booklet. The song has two samples, one from the movie Jacob’s Ladder and the other from Welcome to the Dollhouse.

4. “Change Despair”: Reading these lyrics, I can’t really understand what they are about at all. My guess is that they are about going to prison or rehab or a mental institution to reinvent yourself. “A costume you can’t take off” could be a prison uniform or a straightjacket. There’s some kind of consensus on Songmeanings.com that the song is about reinventing yourself somehow and hoping your peers will accept the new you. There’s something really bleak about the lyrics. Like the person is fading into a place of indifference and apathy. About getting into routines and leaving the life that used to be fun behind. After reading both mine and the punk rock meaning panel’s interpretation, I think it’s about depression.

5. “Train”: This is clearly a song about a relationship gone wrong. We get to hear the side of the story of someone running away. Realizing that they have been fucking their significant other’s life up and brought them down. I think the train that the person jumped and sits on could be meant literally, as in the train they are on to leave or be a symbol of the distance between the two. The other person has apparently missed this metaphorical train, but our protagonist is on it, far away from the person they left behind. Songmeanings.com is again helpful with making my interpretation feel dumb as hell. One user claims it’s about using another person, and that the train is a metaphor for the person that is being used. Others think it’s about creativity and selling out or turning back on former band members. The train is a metaphor for a journey, possibly the band’s journey, maybe also a journey between two lovers, where one of them misses the train.

6. “Hurry up and Wait”: Short lyrics, for once. This song is definitely about being a band on tour and not getting to do your daily routines, because you have to play a show, and then you have to wait again. Being in a band sounds rough! Songmeanings.com agrees! It’s also a lot faster and more fun than the rest of the album. It’s like the little glimpse of positivity on an otherwise downer record, even if the lyrics aren’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

7. “Everything Turns Grey”: This song is written by Mike Palm and originally by the classic surf-punk band Agent Orange. Definitely one of their greatest songs. Lagwagon is pretty true to the original, but maybe with less surf elements. I think the lyrics fit the album very good thematically. It’s another song about depression. No matter what happens, everything turns grey. I guess the choice of color here is interesting. If they went with “dark” or “black”, it would meaning that everything bad and sad, but grey is almost worse as it means that everything turns dull. Grey is a symbolized as dull or uninteresting or conservative in color psychology, black is depressing, illegal or powerful. Orange is cheerful and enthusiastic though, so Agent Orange playing this song is interesting, thinking of colors.

8. “Love Story”: This song is nothing like the NOFX song of the same name. Except that it’s sort of depressing, I guess, but I’ve learned to expect that from Lagwagon now, even with a title like “Love Story”. Definitely one of my favorite Lagwagon songs. At first, it felt like it was sort of the opposite of “Train”, sung by the person in the relationship that feels like the other person brought them down, but I feel like this is a person singing to themselves, so they are both the “you” person and the “I” person. Using “You” could make the listener relate, whereas in the later verses when “I” is used, we get to hear the protagonist’s point of view. This person hates their friends and wants to be alone and escape from a broken relationship. I feel like the ending is clearly about two people “I’ll just swallow all my thoughts/Maybe someday you’ll stop”. I think it could also be about having someone who cares about you, but also hoping that they stop, so you can be miserable alone. This is probably the song where our friends at Songmeanings.com are most divided and uncertain about the meaning. Some say it’s about popularity and high school. Some say it’s about being the person go to for answers, even if you don’t even know what to do with your own life or relationship. Some say it’s about cheating and not really feeling bad about it, since the feelings are gone and the cheater loves the person they are having an affair with (in that case, it’s maybe more similar to the NOFX song than I thought, it’d be cool if it was the same story, but seen from the woman’s point of view). I think there’s a heavy use of acoustic guitars in this song.

9. “Messengers”: Another of my favorite Lagwagon songs. When they played this song when I saw them I, and pretty much everyone there, went nuts and sang along. It was a great moment. Lyrically, I think it’s about telling friends your troubles and trying to weed the garden in your head, or clean up the mess like Joey says. Maybe when you tell your friends these problems, you feel like you’re burdening them or using them. “When we confide in those friends they’re just messengers” could mean exactly that or it could mean you’re afraid that your secrets now will be spread around. I guess there’s an allusion to “Everything Turns Grey”, as in the blue skies turning grey, but this could also be too much of a cliché to have anything to do with the cover at all. Songmeanings.com seems to think it’s about drugs though, more specifically meth! Crystal meth! An interesting theory is that this song and “Love Story” are supposed to be connected. “Love Song” is about cheating on someone and “Messengers” is about telling your friends about it, but the rumor is being spread and the person you’re cheating on finds out. The melody is great, so great that they basically recycled it for “E Dagger” on Blaze.

10. “The Kids Are All Wrong”: It seems like Joey Cape got the idea to bastardize the title of the famous Who song “The Kids Are Alright” and make it about the kids not being all right. Too bad the Offspring did the same thing, the same year, and it became a huge hit. Oh well. Americana was released a week before too. The song is rather short and slow. Todd Capps plays piano it, he also plays on “After You My Friend”.

11. “May 16”: So, we’ve come to the most famous Lagwagon song and the song this article is basically written in the occasion of. I remember it from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. I didn’t even know the song was by Lagwagon, but I loved it. That’s probably where most people found this song and why it has 7 million plays on Spotify. I also think this song has a special meaning to me. May 17th is Independence Day in Norway and what I think of when I hear the song is that it’s the day before that. And thinking of whether that day actually means something, so the lines “take a step to freedom” and singing about liberating yourself reminds me of Norway, while “It’s just another Saturday” reminds me that it’s just a normal day. May 16th is also the day that most teenagers in Norway get drunk, possibly for the first time. Now, as adults, we get drunk on May 17th instead.

To be honest, I read about the actual meaning of the song on Songmeanings.com a very long time ago. And from my memories, it’s about someone you are in love with getting married to a friend of yours and attending their wedding even if it hurts. Just reading the lyrics now, I feel like they are also about liberating yourself. If we take this into the context of the album, it fits the theme of depressed, drug addicted people who try to liberate themselves from hell, or their current situation. Now reading on songmeanings.com, many interpret it as a song about graduation or death. May 16th has now been named by many punks as Lagwagon day (sort of like August 8th is NOFX day). In an article about the song Dyingscene wrote that it turned out that May 16th marked the wedding date of a friend of Lagwagon front man Joey Cape. His friend did not (contrary to my earlier interpretation) because he had fallen out with his friend’s fiancé, “but he was at a different friend’s house on that day and overheard the wedding celebration. May 16th should have been a special day, but turned in to “just another Saturday.”’. Some spell the song “May 16th”, but the official title is “May 16”. It’s also on the Fat comp Life in the Fat Lane.

12. “Owen Meaney”: The title of this song is a reference to John Irving’s classic novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, one of Irving’s great “coming of age and living life” novels. The book rides the line between superstition and reality. The narrator does not draw these lines either, we are not sure if he really believe everything that happens in the book, but he has learned to accept it. The book is about Owen, who from an early age get visions from God about his own death. The book, unlike many of Irving’s works that take place in the course of the narrator’s life, mostly takes place in the sixties, and we get to see how the spirit of the times (Vietnam, student rebellion and so on) correspond with the characters’ lives. I’m not sure if the title of the song is supposed to be a pun or if it’s written differently than the book on purpose. I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a connection between the book and the song either, but it seems to be written from the narrator of the book’s point of view or sharing his atheist leanings and trying to understand what can’t really be understood out of supernatural thinking. It doesn’t have to be related directly to the book, but I think it’s about trying to understand other people’s faith and the unknown. At first, the song actually seems like an instrumental because Joey doesn’t start singing until right before the two minute mark.

Bonus track: “A Feedbag of Truck Stop Poetry”: Except for “May 16”, the first song by Lagwagon I voluntarily heard was this one. I found it on the Fat website back in 2004. It was the title track of that EP, but it also appeared as a bonus track on the newer Let’s Talk about Feelings issues. A feedbag seems to be bag for food for animals. The song seems pretty straightforward compared to the other songs. Someone longs for another person, someone they used to love, but they know that their wishes will never come true. But there are also still some parts that don’t add up to that interpretation, like the suicide mentioned in the song. I think, like so many of the other songs, the suicide here is symbolical. But with like most of these lyrics, I could be wrong.

So enjoy this May 16th, and enjoy the next one. Think of Lagwagon, think of Norway, think of your friends! And think about your feelings, talk about your feelings! The next album will be New Day Rising by Hüsker Dü.

 

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

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

———————————————————————————————

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————

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

 

 

 

 

muffs

It seems more and more like this column has become annual and even if I promise to write more often it seems like every article is further apart. Now we have come to Blonder and Blonder by the Muffs. I was torn whether to write about this one or self-titled, but I decided to go with B&B because the self-titled will be in the 1993 Years of Our Lives article. The Muffs were formed by singer and guitarist Kim Shattuck and the other guitarist Melanie Vammen. They had both previously played in the Pandoras. Later bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Criss Crass joined the band. After releasing singles and EP’s on Subpop and Sympathy for the Record Industry in the early 90s, they signed to Warner Bros and released their eponymous debut in 1993. The Grunge sound of the day was very present on the album. After Crass quit the band and their current drummer Roy McDonald joined and Vammen also quit, they recorded Blonder and Blonder as a three-piece and the grunge influences present on the first album were replaced by a more mainstream pop punk sound, even if Rob Cavallo was co-producer on both albums. In 1997, they released Happy Birthday to Me which gave us “Outer Space” and “I’m a Dick”. On their next album Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow from 1999, they were back on an indie label (Honest Don’s) and Really Really Happy from 2004 they were back on Sympathy for the Record Industry. In 2014, they were prestigious enough to make my top ten of 2014 list with, what I think is an overlooked and underrated album: Whoop Dee Doo on Burger Records. Despite all these great releases, their most famous song is probably their cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America” that appeared on the soundtrack to Clueless.

The first time I heard the Muffs was on Weasel Radio in 07 or 08 and I was blown away. I didn’t know the name of the song and I couldn’t find the episode in the archives when I looked for it. I found it years later and the song was “Baby Go Round” which already was my favorite Muffs song and I think in 2009 I considered it my third favorite song ever written. I still think it is, but I think spot nr.1 and 2 have changed. In 2008, I got a new phone for Christmas which included 200 (or so) free songs that I could download, and I decided to download all of the self-titled album and a few songs from Blonder and Blonder. Except for the track “I Need You” from self-titled I really loved all the songs I downloaded, and I still do, and I still skip “I Need You”. I quickly after that, in the early half of 2009, ordered the Blonder and Blonder CD.

Blonder and Blonder was released on April 11, 1995 on Reprise Records and was produced by Rob Cavallo and the Muffs. The album cover is Kim, Roy and Ronnie and the Muffs logo over them. The album title is most likely a reference to Kim’s blonde hair on the cover. Another interesting thing to notice about the cover is that none of the band members get their entire face on the cover. I don’t know if this is done on purpose, but it’s also interesting that the word ‘face’ is so prominent on the album.
——————————————————————
1. “Agony”: The album starts with a boom. It’s fast and catchy and quite poppy as well. It’s a very ‘Muffs-thing’ to have an extremely poppy song instantly become a much less poppy song with Shattuck’s raspy voice and screaming. I think her voice is very distinctive and essential to the band. The song describes the loneliness and bad feelings that might occur after a breakup. It sort of makes sense that Rob Cavallo who produced Dookie co-produced this album as the sound sounds very Dookie-era Green Day at times, but with more of an edge than Green Day had, both in Shattuck’s singing and in rawer guitar sounds. Speaking of Green Day, the song “State of Shock” is pretty much a rip-off of “Agony.

2. “Oh Nina”: Kim Shattuck said in an interview: “”It’s about a transvestite who pulls straight men into sleeping with him. It’s very watered down, I guess, but to me, that’s what it is.” (http://www.popstops.net/muffs.htm) (all quotes from Shattuck that follow are from this interview). “Nina” rhymes with a lot in this song, like Pasadena and ballerina. They made a live music video for this track with Nina appearing in the beginning. The signature Shattuck scream is even more present in this song!

3. “On and on”: The third track of the album is a lot poppier and more straight-up pop-punk than the two before it, yet the Shattuck signature scream is present here as well. The song seems to be about wishing someone dead, harsh stuff: “Now I’m wishing for your death/ Tell me that I’m wrong/ But I’m just wasting all my breath/ And it goes on and on”.

4. “Sad Tomorrow”: The only single from the album and I don’t understand why it wasn’t a bigger hit. There was made a music video for “Sad Tomorrow” too and it’s pretty funny. The band plays in a pawn shop and we get to see lots of shenanigans. It’s a poppy upbeat song, but the lyrics are pretty damn sad. It seems to me like a song about not being appreciated or not being supported emotionally by your significant other. The most depressing lines of the song “I feel naked and weird/ Do you see what I hear/ Maybe one day I’ll die, who cares”. The chorus also echoes this depressing notion of your significant other, who seems like some sort of bigshot, would be happier if you died. There’s a lot of wishing people dead on this album. Shattuck described it as all her favorite sounds rolled into one. Her favorite band the Kinks, a little bit of the Everly Brothers, some Ramones, some Hollies, some Sex Pistols and Joan Jett.

5. “What You’ve Done”: Another pretty straight up pop punk song. It starts with a romantic gesture “I’d do anything for if I could”; later it’s not as romantic. She claims that even if she could believe all that he says, she still doesn’t want to spend time with him. She’s caught him lying and she knows what he’s done. What he’s done is actually not mentioned, but it seems terrible.

6. “Red Eyed Troll”: The self-titled had “Another Day” and this one has “Red Eyed Troll”; they are both angry, rockabilly-inspired tunes. This is one of my favorite songs on the album because of its anger and aggression. I always thought it was a girl-power-esque song about a terrible man, like many of the other songs on the album, but this one seems to actually be about another woman. The chorus “I don’t need no attitude when you pick on me” is fantastic.

7. “End It All”: I first heard this song when the Queers covered it on their “Bubblegum Dreams” EP. To me the song seems like an anti-suicide song. It informs us that if we kill ourselves we will leave someone behind and we’ll be gone forever. It’s the slowest song on the album until now and it’s a pretty much a pop song in the same vein as “Downtown” by Petulia Clark. The Queers song is a bit longer because it repeats a verse, but the song being as short as it is is part of what makes it great. It says what needs to be said and boom there it’s over and you always wish there was more, but might as well listen another time then. What a song!

8. “Laying on a Bed of Roses”: Isn’t it supposed to be Lying on a bed of roses? Anyways, this is another rocker. This, along with “End It All” were the two B&B songs I downloaded in early 2009 and I thought this song was great. There’s a cool little rock ‘n’roll boogie riff in this one and Shattuck sounds as angry as ever. The song is about a significant other not understanding and taking everything the wrong way. The “I” person finds out that they don’t wanna put up with it anymore and finds out that they’d have more fun laying on a bed of roses than this shit, and there won’t be no next time.
9. “I Need a Face”: This is one of my favorites too. To be fair all the songs on this album are gems. This one is more like a hidden treasure though, hidden in the middle of the album. The chorus is so catchy. I’d say that, thematically, it’s pretty close to its predecessor and to “Saying Goodbye” on the self-titled, telling someone: you’ve had your fun, we’ve had our fun, but it’s not fun anymore, so goodbye.

10. “I Won’t Come Out to Play”: Another hit! This is another fantastic pop song! I think Dr. Frank was very inspired by this when writing the “The Weather Is Here Wish You Were Beautiful” solo. I think it also shows that you don’t need amazingly wordful lyrics to make a great track. So few words in this one!

11. “Funny Face”: Like I said, the word “face” is like some kind of motif of this album. We found it two songs earlier in “I Need a Face” and here’s also “Funny Face”. This is one of the slower songs and the melody sounds like some kind of jolly folk song, maybe from Ireland or something. I feel like it could be inspired by the Gershwin musical Funny Face or the Audrey Hepburn movie that was inspired by it. Along with many other pop punk and alternative songs of the day (like Green Day’s “J.A.R”, Ash’s “Jack Names the Planets”, The Riverdales’ “Back to You” and Pansy Division’s “Deep Water”) it appeared on the Angus soundtrack. Best line of the song: “I like everyone, they all hate me”.

12. “Ethyl My Love”: I feel like this is the “I Need You” of B&B, but not in a bad way. I can’t stand “I Need You”, but “Ethyl My Love” is actually great. I’ve never really understood the lyrics, if there’s supposed to be some kind of ambiguous meaning, if Ethyl can be someone’s name or if it just refers to the verb that means introducing an ethyl group into a compound (this would be Ethylate). Ethyl is alcohol or something. Chemistry is the worst! The song tells the tale of a boy supposedly giving a girl a ring. I’m not sure if I should compare it to “From Your Girl”: the narrator wants the boy to stay with the girl tell her to “ethyl his love” or if the narrator is the girl herself and she’s uncertain if he will be true and wants him to say “ethyl my love”. I still like the idea of the name of the girl being Ethyl. And now that turns out to be true! Shattuck said “’Ethyl My Love’ is about Ethyl Mertz. I don’t know, I was just tripping out, watching ‘I Love Lucy.’ What can I say? it’s a dumb song with dumb lyrics.”. Great tune!

13. “I’m Confused”: Another angry song to a happy soothing melody. I feel like, compared to many of the other songs on the album, the lyrics are quite straightforward and don’t make me confused. The character in the song is confused though! In “Funny Face” Shattuck sings “I love everyone, they all hate me”, while in “I’m Confused” she sings “I hate everyone”. There are some cool lines in the song like “Somebody leave me alone/ no one likes to be a clone”. I like the negativity and “fuck y’all” attitude of the song. In the interview, John Everson (the interviewer) compared the song to Joan Jett, and Shattuck thought it sounded more like Roy Orbison.

14. “Just a Game”: The self-titled album ends on the beautiful acoustic number “All for Nothing” and B&B ends on another acoustic track “Just a Game” and it’s a great one too and in many ways, sums up the album. A lot of the songs (see “Sad Tomorrow” and “Laying on a Bed of Roses) are about someone playing a game with someone else and trying to be the victim (“you’re the victim can’t you see”, but in reality they are the bad guy, alternately it could also be a self-loathing song writing in second person toward oneself). I think it’s also probably the song with the best lyrics on the album. The little guitar thing is great too. This is probably a perfect ending to a terrific album. I saw a video of Kim Shattuck playing it live on a radio show on YouTube and it’s a great performance.

———————————————————————————————-

For more Muffs, I’m positive that the self-titled will make my 1993 list of “Years of Our Lives”, but you’ll have to sit through 1992 first. Next pick is Drop out with the Barracudas by the Barracudas!