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

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:

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. 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.


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 (, 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,( ) 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.

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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 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 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. 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 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. 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! 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 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. 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 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, 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!






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.” ( (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!

So, this thing continues. If you haven’t read it you should probably read ( first. In this one there’s a guest comment from Dave on the public dis-service announcement made by Shell.

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Shell Sucks

“A Public Dis-service Announcement from Shell” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The lyrics in this interlude song are taken from an excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press in 1995 (a piece called “Clear Thinking in Troubled Times”), which appears to be more or less PR propaganda for Shell corporation, to protest its innocence over oil extraction activities that had been taking place in developing countries in the early 1990s. This extract is likely to refer to the human rights violations in Nigeria in 1995 that Shell were accused of being involved with. Oil money and corporate influence was said to have enabled a number of human rights violations in Nigeria, including executions and torture. Although Shell never accepted liability for this, they did nevertheless pay $15.5 million in a legal settlement. Human rights campaigners were bringing attention to this issue around the time Less Talk, More Rock was released.

Shell don’t appear to have learnt anything in recent years as their continued involvement in Nigeria has led to further human rights abuses, particularly in regards to gas flaring and oil spills. Amnesty international has published a report into the whole thing. Of course, despite all this, Shell present a humanitarian, ‘sustainable’ image of the brand that tries to cut ties with any previous ‘demeanours’. Shell along with the rest of the fossil fuel industry has similarly been involved in a campaign of misinformation towards climate change, despite the consensus built around it. I think the point of this song is to highlight the sheer disparity between multinational corporations’ PR and the reality of their engagement in the world. Like this part in the extract: But the sound and ethical business practices synonymous with Shell, the environmental investment and the tens of millions of dollars spent on community programs would all be lost. Again, it’s the people of developing nations that you would hurt”. Which, of course, is a load of PR horseshit and says nothing of their oil spills or human rights violations. The last line highlights irony and a sheer lack of self-awareness on behalf of the writer/speaker: “The world where companies use their economic influence to prop up or bring down governments would be a frightening and bleak one indeed.”. Shell’s influence in Nigerian politics highlights the shift towards the very process described in that line happening throughout the world.

“Ska Sucks” (How to Clean Everything)

This seems to be a song that the band hates even if it’s quite a catchy one and a pretty good ska song. It uses a pretty standard ska bassline, but it does it pretty well. It bears similarities to Operation Ivy’s “Yelling in My Ear” and there’s also a reference to “A Message to You Rudy” by Dandy Livingston, made popular by the Specials. The song is just about how ska sucks and it’s a trend that will end and that the bands playing it are only in it for the money. Ska became even bigger after this though.


I could find very few connections between these two songs and I guess there really aren’t many. One is a song and the other is spoken political propaganda over music. What they both have in common musically is that they both have a very outstanding bass line that makes up most of the music on the tracks. A very huge difference is that “Ska Sucks” is a piss-take song made with mostly humor while “Public Dis-announcement” is a bit more serious and is about a perhaps more serious issue than Ska music. The similarity is that the tracks both show contempt for something, one for Shell’s violation of human rights and dishonesty and the other for a genre of music. Another difference is that it’s easy to see why Propagandhi would show this dissatisfaction with Shell, but it’s up to imagination what about the wonderful genre of Ska that could get on their nerves. Music genres are, of course, about taste so it becomes hard to argue with someone’s taste. One thing that I took notice of earlier was how good of a ska song “Ska Sucks” really is. It’s a catchy song with a sweet bass line and it just always gets me in a jolly mood. And it’s somewhat hard to grasp how someone who hates the music could make such a cool Ska song. An important thing to note is the origins of Ska. It was a Jamaican music that became popular on Jamaica in the 1960s and became popular with white skinheads in the UK in the late 60s and early 70 and the music bridged the black rudy culture and mostly the white skinhead culture. At that point the performers were still mostly black Jamaicans and popular ska-acts like Symarip (or Pyramids), Toots and the Maytals, Prince Buster and Desmond Decker ruled the record players of both black and white youth. In the first ska-revival that happened in the late 70s with the two-tone label. At this time, we would get all white bands like Madness, but also bands with both black and white members, like the Beat, The Specials and Bad Manners. This racial harmony was often symbolized by the black and white checkered pattern of the Two-tone logo.

So when talking about Ska music, we aren’t just discussing a music genre, we’re also talking about culture and race. With Propagandhi writing songs like “White, Proud and Stupid” it would be ridiculous to accuse Propagandhi of hating Ska for being black music. There is also nothing in the lyrics that would suggest this. Could they possible be stating something else though? If I’m going to stretch this a bit (which I seem to be doing a lot in these articles!), the song is mainly about the third wave and second revival of Ska. This time it happened in America with bands like Operation Ivy and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The song shows hatred for the trend of ska revival and wanting to monetize it rather than the actual music. With this revival we can see that the music is mostly played by white musicians and we can again see example of white musicians hijacking black culture. A term known as cultural appropriation. We can see endless stories of black music being made as a result of oppression from white people and then again being exploited by white people that would make more money on it. I’m not sure if this is what Propagandhi are attacking in the song, but it seems to be a thing that Propagandhi would have an opinion on. So here we can make more connections between the two tracks as they both to different degrees show how white people can exploit black suffering and make money on it. In one case we see white musicians appropriating black culture and in the other case we see Shell, a European company, being involved in human rights violation in Africa.

Military, War and Indoctrination of Children

“I Was a Pre-teen McCarthyist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

This song is about Chris’s upbringing in a conservative family. He said in an interview with the Charleston City Paper that he grew up in a Royal Canadian Air Force town in Winnipeg, his family weren’t far right wing, but they were living in the military. The song describes going to Harold Edward’s Elementary School, a place where you pay respect to their god, their flag and their military. The song is about indoctrination of children to be afraid of the left. He sings about writing about the dangers of communism in third grade and going to a military base for spring break. 12 years later, he has found out that he had been fed lies and decided not to be a part of this anymore. The end is pretty brilliant: “when you jump ship, you either swim for shore or drown. Don’t let the fuckers drag you down” It’s pessimistic in the sense that when you break out from a shitty political ideology (or a religious cult or whatever), you can end up completely on your own and you have to get by alone. It’s positive in the sense that it’s never too late to get out, and you can always change your mind and become better and wiser. Musically, the song is pretty standard pop punk with very high harmonies and it’s one of the most melodic songs the band has written.

“Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Quite a short track and it gave us a preview of the sound the band would evolve into. The lyrics are about cities creating ghettos so the rich can forget about poverty and continue to the trickle-down economics. He also sings that the real murderers are the rich people who by PR campaigns and politics wage war against the poor. The conclusion of the song is “this system can’t be reformed”. I’m not sure what the title means, but I feel like he is trying to compare Canada to Brazil.

“Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch” (How to Clean Everything):

This classic from HtCE starts up with an argument between Chris and his dad. His dad says the “boy scouts chanting war” is the sound of freedom and don’t want to hear his son’s disagreements. In this moment Chris opens his eyes and says “Wait a minute dad, did you actually say freedom? Well if you’re dumb enough to vote, you’re fucking dumb enough to believe ‘em”. He then he claims that if the country was free he could burn the flag and stick it up someone’s ass. This sounds kind of like an Anti-American anthem, but it’s then important to remember that Propagandhi is Canadian and that the song ends with the opening notes of Canada’s National Anthem “O’ Canada”. In the next part, he sings the regrets of his past. He used to carry someone else’s anthem and pretend it was his own, but it wasn’t. He also used to step in line until he discovered that it was false and this was not something he could stand for. Later, the narrative changes, we’re now in second person and it’s the listener who carries the anthem that isn’t theirs and how this phony national romanticism can have fatal consequences like enlisting in the army. The song takes an, if not anti-war, anti-military stand. The last line of the song is “fuck the troops to hell”. There’s also a Bette Midler reference I’m not sure about. It might be a reference to her 1991 movie For the Boys, about a jazz singer entertaining the troops. On the back cover of the album it is noted that the word “bitch” in the title is not supposed to be gender specific.


War and militarism is the big link between these three songs. In “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” and “Stick the Flag” there’s also a theme of changing your political views and the difference between parents and kids when it comes to politics. “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” could also be seen as a part two of “Stick the Flag”, as they both have to do with Chris’s childhood, growing up with patriotism and supporting the military and being indoctrinated into anti-communism and boy scouts shouting wars into turning the other way, jumping ship and converting to the left. An interesting thing to consider is the way the word “war” and the symbol of militarism are used in these three songs. In “Pre-teen McCarthyist” the word “war” isn’t used, but militarism and the struggles of the “airforce town” are in the center of the song. In “Rio”, the real war is the war that the rich wage against the poor. The weapons here are pens, desks and policies. In “Stick the Flag”, sticking with patriotism (instead of sticking it up your ass) could lead to being sent to war. Also, the indoctrination of children to support their country and their troops is referred to as “boys scouts chanting war”. This is also a theme we can see in “Pre-teen McCarthyist”, both when it comes to military indoctrination and pledging allegiance

Leaders, A Thousand Slaves

Resisting Tyrannical Government” (Less Talk, More Rock):

The song offers two solutions to end the injustice in the world carried on by the wealthiest and most powerful. The first verse asks rhetorically: “Why don’t we all strap bombs to our chests and ride our bikes to the next G7 picnic?” and the second asks “Why don’t we plant a mechanic virus and erase the memory of the machines that maintain this capitalist dynasty?” in a similar manner.  In the first verse, Chris sings that it’s become way easier to engage in such actions, but ask who would benefit from this, Chris? The listener? The rank and file? Or would it actually benefit the government? In 1996, like now, the G7 consist of the wealthiest nations of the world’s leaders, for years they were, with Russia, known as the G8. Chris asks what bombing such a G7 event would be good for, or if this is something that would only help the government. Chris later goes on to say that he doesn’t want his actions to result in the second Final Solution, a reference to the Holocaust, I believe.

He also says he doesn’t want to be the Steve Smith of the revolution. I tried to find out which of the many Steve Smiths this could refer to and the most rational answer is the Scottish-Canadian hockey player who was responsible for hurting fellow player Pavel Bure’s knee. The reference in the song is probably to his own goal against the Flames, he played for the Oilers.  This own goal resulted in the Oilers losing the series and the Flames went on to win the Stanley Cup. This happened in 1986, ten years before the song. Chris asks if the listeners understand his analogy, and compares the people fighting against the power to the Oilers, while the World Bank is the Flames. This could also be a pun on their names, as oil will set fire to flames. The people who fight the power need to be careful with their actions, because when they have the numbers so much against them, any wrong step could turn the action back on them. This gets emphasized in the following lines: “Yeah, Jesus saves! Gretzky scores!/ The workers slave. The rich get more. / One wrong move, we risk the cup. /Play the man, not the puck.” There’s really not much of a discussion when it comes to the second question, it just asks rhetorically if planting a virus to erase the capitalist dynasty and later he continues by recognizing the irony that this system is also what’s made him privileged compared to many others in the world as a middle-class Canadian is the system he is fighting against, and he encourages every other privileged person to do the same. The title is a reference to the second amendment in the American constitution that the right to bear arms is to resist tyrannical government.

“Head? Chest? Foot?” (How to Clean Everything):

The song starts with three choices and one bullet and there’s one trigger, again there’s a rhetorical question, who will get to pull the trigger? I’m guessing the three choices the leader with the gun has are: the head, the chest or in the foot?  Chris describes a totalitarian leadership with only one leader and the rest of us are slaves, we’re all just sheep that are part of the machine. He doesn’t want to be part of this machine and wants to stand up against it. The following lines describes this bleak situation: “They subsidize your nightclubs and they subsidize your malls/ They herd and brand the masses within painted prison walls/ ‘Til your freedom of assembly becomes the missiles they create/ Or just mass delusion dancing to this music that you fucking hate”. This doesn’t describe a totalitarianism driven by force and fear, it describes a society that is driven by government subsidization and false freedom. The problem isn’t the tyrannical being in total power, but the illusion that we are free. We’re free to shop and dance to music (that Chris fucking hates!) in night clubs, but our freedoms just exist to keep up the system and weaponize them. We’re sheep that are herded in a prison. Chris repeatedly needs to state how much he doesn’t want to be part of the sheep and just lose against the power, the ones who in George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm would be the pigs. 1984 and Animal Farm are works from Orwell that criticize totalitarianism and state power and has given the name to the adjective that describes a society that is controlled by surveillance and misinformation. Chris uses this term in the song and he says he’d rather be imprisoned in such a world than to be pacified and pretend to be free and dance and sing along with the other goons. He wants to know his enemy and who he should attack instead of staying silent and ignorant. In the end of the song, we’re left with two choices instead of three. To oppose the power or be destroyed by it.


These songs are pretty similar. Even more similar that I figured when I decided to group them together. They are both about fighting the capitalist powers that treat us like slaves. In “Head? Chest? Foot?” it is clear that we need to fight this power, while in “Resisting Tyrannical Government” this still stands, but we’re met with challenges that such a fight could bring, because the choices we have might come back to us. In “Head”, the choices are simple “to oppose them or let them destroy us”, but in “Tyrannical Government” opposing them could destroy us as well, if we don’t play our cards right.  

A Good Kick in the Ass

“The Only Good Fascist Is a Very Dead Fascist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Sadly, this is a song that has become relevant lately. The song almost, even eleven years before, perfectly describes the attitudes of the right-wing protesters in Charlottesville recently. The song describes the KKK and Nazis with swastikas and right-wing groups and attitudes. Chris sings they can wear his nuts on their Nazi chins (and later his brown power ass in their white power face). In the second verse, he questions why these white power people are so proud of their race, when all we’ve really produced is capitalism, slavery, genocide and sitcom. In the end, the conclusion is “Kill them all and let a Norse god sort them out” a reference to the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric who said, “Kill them all and let God sort them out” before a massacre, it was also a slogan used in the Vietnam war.

“Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette” (How to Clean Everything):

This song describes the moment when you realize where you stand politically and understand how the world really works and how unfair the whole thing really is. The song refers a lot to ass-kicking. First in second person; “You need a good kick in the ass” and then in first person, singular; “I need a good kick in the ass” and then lastly, first person, plural; “we all need a kick in the ass”. We all need someone or something to push us toward realizing injustice and fight against it. The song is also in many ways an anarchist manifesto. It concludes that we don’t need rules, we just need common sense. The most important lesson to learn from this song is that the most importing thing is educating yourself. Education derived from discussions trumps the four words in the title: hate, myth, muscle or etiquette. The song ends: “Status symbols yield to respect between sex, species, environment”.

“Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?” (How to Clean Everything)

Another song from HtCE and it’s about being threatened with violence for your political beliefs. It’s about standing up to violence and show that answering with fists isn’t gonna help and that nothing can touch his mind and his ideals. And that he’d rather die than to join their team. It’s also about standing up for what you think is right and speaking your mind about it, rather than going along with what’s going on. The “I won’t bleed for you, have no need for you” part is probably my favorite part in any Propagandhi song.


Out of all the songs I think they were the hardest to find a link between and they were basically just leftovers that I couldn’t find another song to link it to. If I’m gonna stretch a lot I’ll have to look at the theme of physical violence versus figurative violence. I don’t know if I use these terms correctly. But when I use these terms I mean physical violence as violence that happens, while figurative violence is violence that only exists in language and is more symbolic than actual violence is. It’s interesting to think of the motivation for the Amalric quote. During the war in Vietnam, right-wing rednecks seemed to love wearing t-shirt with this quote on it. It seems to me that Amalric meant the quote quite literally, but did the rednecks really think that we should everyone in Vietnam? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that this was just a way of saying America should take no prisoners in their fight in Vietnam. The actual violence and killing in Vietnam, was of course very real. Does Chris mean killing all fascists literally? He very well could! And it could relate to “is it OK to punch Nazis debate?” Woody Guthrie, used to have “this machine kills fascists” on this guitar, this could also be taken figuratively as in the music from the guitar is meant to destroy fascist, but Guthrie was also enlisted in the army to fight against Nazi Germany, so he was also very literal about it. When Chris sings “Kill them all”, he’s making a reference to the rednecks during the Vietnam war, but he could also mean we should kill all Nazis or use any means necessary to destroy fascism.

When Chris sings “you can wear my nuts on your Nazi chins” or “my brown-power ass in your white-power face”, it’s his way of saying “kiss my ass” or “lick my nuts”. Similar insults such as “suck my dick” or “eat my shit” when sexual or non-sexual acts that are not consensual to, in your language, create power over the person you’re trying to insult. It’s possible that Chris is trying to make an anti-homophobic statement like he did in “Less Talk, More Rock” and using it in an opposite way that these are usually made, in the way that “suck my dick” is meant to be a homophobic idiom in itself, because it’s based on people’s aversion to homosexuality. I assume that it’s meant to repulse homophobic Nazis, rather than use it homophobically. Regardless, it’s still a type of language that normalizes figurate sexual violence. In “Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette”, I assume that muscles referred to violence. In the song, physical and figurative violence and much of the basis behind the song. When we need a good kick in the ass to become better people this is not meant to be literally. “Muscle” is not the way to make the world a better place, education is. “A kick in the ass” means that we need to open up our eyes and educate ourselves not that we need the muscle of authority (whether from government or other authorities) to indoctrinate us with their beliefs through violence. We see the same in “Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?”, “you boycott your brain, you answer with fists”. Education; “getting a kick in the ass” intellectually trumps getting a kick in the ass literally.

Prospects for DemocracyThe State Lottery” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This track starts up with a sample from Noam Chomsky. I believe it is the conclusion of his lecture “Prospects for Democracy” from 1994 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher and political activist that is probably familiar to most people. His political ideas of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Libertarian Socialism seem very influential to the ideas that Propagandhi convey through song. The lecture is a critique of American democracy and how it doesn’t uphold the prospects for democracy which the founding fathers intended. Corporations have taken over political power and the government serves as the provider for these corporations to be even more powerful. Chomsky also compares the current American democracy (as of 1994) to that of the Soviet Union. According to Chomsky, manipulation and misinformation is being used to control the voters. I watched this lecture on youtube ( , but it cut before the end. The conclusion that starts the song serves as a rational conclusion to this lecture: “Now, the real prospects for authentic democracy depend on something else. They depend on how the people in the rich and privileged societies learn some other lessons. For example, the lessons that are being taught right now by Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico. They are among the most impoverished and oppressed sectors in the continent. But, unlike us, they retain a vibrant tradition of liberty and democracy. A tradition that we’ve allowed to slip out of our hands or has been stolen from us. And unless people here in the rich and privileged society, unless they can recapture and revitalize that tradition, the prospects for democracy are indeed dim.” The song views this democratized political situation through the reflection of the people who are actually in political power and how they seem more like lottery winners than someone who want to be responsible for real political change. They seem more content with keeping those that are holding this system up pleased than challenging the system. By the end of the song Chris asks a rhetorical question similar to the questions he’s asked before: “Is it not our obligation to confront this tyranny?”

“…And We Thought the Nation States Was a Bad Idea” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This song has been given many titles like “Nation States”, but it’s represented with the full title on the album. The same idea is apparent here. Multinational companies are in power, and this means class war. We’re owned and consumed by these companies.

“A People’s History of the World” (Less Talk, More Rock)

Again the bleak view of modern democracy appears. Those in power fear knowledge and therefore we need to educate ourselves and fight that power, is what this song preaches. Again, manipulation and misinformation is used to control the masses, to let the wealthiest at the top control the rest. It also echoes the message of “Stick the flag” that if you’re dumb enough to vote you’re dumb enough to believe ‘em. The song concludes: “Yeah, you can vote however the fuck you want, but power still calls all the shots. And believe it or not, even if (real) democracy broke loose, power could/would just “make the economy scream” until we vote responsibly”. To me it seems like the title is a reference to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Author Chris Harman also wrote a book with the same name (world not the US), inspired and endorsed by Zinn.

“Middle Finger Response” (How to Clean Everything)

An angry punk song for you to sing “fuck you” to? Or an important political statement against the establishment? The geographical references in the song are from Calgary such as the Waskasoo Creek and the Parkland mall. Chris questions the hegemony of the peaceful democracy known as Canada. These fun-loving Canadians with their “aryan” pride and flag march to the beat of conformity and wealth gained by the wood industry. Lyrically, it’s one of Propagandhi’s most immature lyrics as there is a motivation to provoke and offend rather than to educate and engage. Chris states that he has offended many people now he wants to offend the rest, he’s gonna tell a great deal of the world’s population to fuck off.


The connection between all these songs are there due to the co-operation between government and corporation and democratizing of a country’s citizens. These ideas are shown through the ideas of intellectuals of the libertarian left like Chomsky and Zinn. Two figures that are often used as the spokesmen for the left in general. This is something we can see in other punk bands as well. NOFX’s mention the two as reading to wake up from apathy and apolicalism  in the song “Franco Un-American” (from the War on Errorism), while Ben Weasel satirizes the left’s worship of the two in his “Come See the Violence Inherit the System” on Screeching Weasel’s album First World Manifesto. All these albums are on Fat! There exists a will to fight against these powers of multinational corporations and governments’ aid to them, either through saying “fuck you” or direct actions, in these songs.

There’s a Difference Between Sexism and SexualityRefusing to Be a Man” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The last song on LTMR is probably my favorite Propagandhi song. It doesn’t keep politics and personal themes separate. More importantly, there’s a lot of criticisms and “fuck yous” in the Propagandhi’s lyrics, this song is Chris’s “fuck you” and criticism of himself and his own sexism. We can see many of these reflective lyrics on LTMR, and we see them even more on later albums. The song title and song itself are inspired by John Stoltenberg’s essay (and essay collection) with the same name(s). Stoltenberg was married to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. The essay(s) are often centered around pornography. Both Stoltenberg and Dworkin are known for their anti-pornography views and this is something both fellow feminists and the porn industry (Like Larry Flynt) have criticized them for. Fat Mike doesn’t seem too fond of Dworkin in his disturbing NOFX song “The Black and White”. Stoltenberg is known for the quote “Pornography tells lies about women, but tells the truth about men”. In this song, Chris, as opposed to Fat Mike (who put out the record), shares many of these ideas. It’s not only a song that criticizes the faults of the patriarchy, but it’s an individual male’s realization that he oppresses women and wanting to do something about it.

The song starts up with addressing the fact that he isn’t different from all the rest. He says this to a “you”. This could be addressed to all women or just one woman in particular. He goes on to say that he has the same nurturing as other men and that men are taught from a young age to objectify women and think that they are superior to women and even have the right what to do with their bodies. In italics in the lyric sheet, Chris says that hetero-sexist men are “potential rapists”, I’m not sure why this is written in italics, maybe it’s because it’s a reference or maybe it’s something Chris doesn’t really believe. He claims that from early childhood he has been nurtured into becoming someone who objectifies women, this is not natural and shows the power of the patriarchal indoctrination of children. This song pretty much establishes the core of the beliefs of Propagandhi. That we one day find out something like what “patricentricity” means, and wanting to change it. He has been taught something all his life (that he should be superior to women and that he’s allowed to make women HIS sexual objects), he now realize that these male-centered ideas are wrong and he is ashamed that he is attracted to body types. He calls for a redefinition of eroticism because sex has been distorted. The most outstanding line of the song is “there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality”. The song is not anti-sexuality, it’s anti-sexism. The song also brings in sex and gender, and probably in a different way that we discuss them today. The song ends with Chris refusal to be a man. Here, instead of italics, the word “man” is used in quotation marks. Chris can’t refuse the biological fact that he’s a man. He can’t refuse to be a man, by sex. If Chris identifies as a male (I’d hate to assume someone’s gender!), he can’t really refuse to be a man, by gender. What he does, however, is refuse to take part in the culturally constructed ideals of what it is to be a man. If these ideals are based on male-superiority and sexual objectification of women. I think in 1996, it’s possible that the quotation mark would serve as a way of separating sex and gender, but I think, if I understand correctly, that in modern gender thinking it would rather separate between sex/gender and gender roles and the constructed ideals of how genders should act out.

This Might Be Satire” (How to Clean Everything)

As the title suggests, this song might be satire. The song is kind of a classic pop punk song with super cute and bubble gummy lyrics. It was often played before the song “Fuck Machine” and comes right after it on the record. The songs are supposed to be next to each other as they are about the same theme. I think the song just as much parodies popular music as it parodies society as a whole. The song is a guy serenading a girl at school. He sings that he wants to do everything for her at school, carry her books and chew bubblegum. He also wants to fuck her up the ass. The song shows how men patronize women by socially constructed “chivalry” (“I wanna carry your books to every class”), but also sexually objectify women and want sexual rewards for their behaviors (“I wanna fuck you up the ass”). The girl in the song says she loves the man, the man wants to try to fuck her. The references to school shows that this happens at a young age and the parodic element of the song is that many of the performer of silly songs that echoes this “I wanna carry your books in school” attitude comes from old men. The song shows how girls from a young age are objectified by older men and how this pedophilia or hebephilia is rooted in popular culture. In the end the man exposes his own pedophilia by asking “where the hell are my priorities? Left in the hands of the authorities”.

“Fuck Machine” (How to Clean Everything)

The song “Fuck Machine” also discusses conditioned attraction and reactions. It’s also about beauty-tyranny and the way the media wants women to look like. There’s a bikini film on and the female anchor’s reaction to the movie is “boys will be boys” and by this, according to the song, she condones the movie and agrees that she’s just a toy, a fuck machine. This changes. She now takes charge. The anchor has her fist in a clinch. She no longer wants to be a toy in men’s possession. It’s unclear to me whether the last couple a’ lines are from the point of view of the anchor or Chris himself: “And though I long to embrace, I will not misplace my priorities: Humor, opinion, a sense of compassion, creativity/ And a distaste for fashion”.


The link between the song is that Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s ideas could be applied to all of them. “Refusing to Be a Man” reflects on being a male and being taught these sexist attitudes, “This Might Be Satire” parodies these attitude by humorously putting them in action. “Fuck Machine” tries to inspire women to take a stand and not become “fuck machines”. I think out of the songs “Refusing to Be a Man” is the more mature song and probably the most feminist song of the three. I think there’s good intention by the rather crude songs. And “This Might Be Satire” being satire gives it a pass, even if the song might be cringeworthy to some. “Fuck Machine”, however, might be a bit more problematic. It seems undeniable that in this patriarchic society women are the ones that suffer from the structures being as they are. Chris seems to recognize this. There’s very little about males in the song, and faults of males in society at all. The song, on the other hand, shows unnecessary malice toward women who don’t agree with him and a, still, male-centric look into what he thinks women should be. Whereas, “Refusing to Be a Man” blames nurturing and the patriarchy, but also puts the blame on men. It establishes that men oppressing women is men’s fault, and not women.


Hope this wasn’t too long and boring, but if you’re crazy enough that you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it at least. The next pop punk pick will be the Muffs’ Blonder and Blonder.


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

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

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

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

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

Western Apathy and Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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


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

Animal Rights

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

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

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

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


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

Ignore the Message We Convey

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

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

“Anti-Manifesto” (How to Clean Everything)

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


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

Samson: The Man of the Sun

“Anchorless” (Less Talk, More Rock)

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

“Gifts” (Less Talk, More Rock)

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

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

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

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


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

“Shoebox full of photos;

found a grainy mirror.

Sunken cheeks and slender hands.

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

Hey how’d you get so anchorless?”

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

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It’s been half a year since last column. I guess this is an article I’ve sort of dreaded article. Mostly because my arch enemy, Dan Ozzi (the jaded punk-hulk) over at Noisey, already wrote an article on this album ( I feel like he said most of what had to be said, but I still want to add something about this album, so I’ll do some comments on what Ozzi has written and share my own memories related to this album. Something that Ozzi focuses on a lot is the teenage high school theme of the album, that is impossible to deny that is there. Sometimes the lyrics border on sort of creepy or cringe-y. Which has always raised the question how old these guys were when they released it. They formed in 1990 (1991 according to Dave Weston), so if they were still teenagers or in high school in 1996, they must’ve been twelve or thirteen when they first started. They started as a five piece post hardcore band. They formed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and they are the only ones I can think of that are from the town of Bethlehem. They put out the 7’’ “Thursdaydown” in 1992, but on their debut album A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion they had turned into a pop punk band. The band was named after singer and guitarist Dave Weston’s parents, because they let the and practice in their basement. James Alex Snyder, now world famous for his band Beach Slang, joined the band on guitar in 1992. He also started taking more and more over as a vocalist in Weston as well. When bassist Jeff Saltern quit in 1996, he was replaced by Jesse Short. Chris Brenner from Digger was also in the band from 1990 to 1994. I would say Got Beat Up is even poppier than Teenage Rebellion. The next album Matinee: Music from the Soundtrack took the band into a more indie sound and their major label debut The Massed Albert Sounds continued in the indie rock genre even if they weren’t on an indie label anymore. Instead of making the band bigger and reaching new audiences, signing to a major label ended in the band’s break up.

I first became aware of Weston from the Pop Punk Message Bored (of course!). I remember going to the local second hand store where I would find records, CD’s and movies and even comic books when I was younger (it’s no longer around). I saw an album that had bunch of shoes on the album cover and some of the shoes were Chuck Taylors, I must admit that I bought this album just because of that. I was dumb in 2009, but it was still a wise choice. The album turned out to be What Else Could We Do? by Wax, an album that should get their own column! After buying it I realized someone had started a poll on the PPMB, who were the best band between Weston and Wax. I thought it was hilarious that I had bought that CD and didn’t notice that thread before that. Later, in September, I went to the local record fair and bought lots of ska CD’s and Honest Don’s Greatest Shits, the dude selling them recommended me Got Beat Up, and I had forgotten about the poll, but the band name Weston seemed familiar. I bought it and didn’t regret it! One of the ska albums I bought was The Allston Beat by The Allstonians, one of the greatest ska albums, both in the third-wave and ever. I also bought the first pressing of The Queers Grow up that day. Pretty great day! Also got to use a Wifi by using the password “bacon” and I really just tried it as a South Park reference! I was 19 at the time, but I still thought the lyrics on Got Beat Up were kind of silly even then. I really started loving the album when I left home and I loved coming back home and dance to it. Maybe to me it represented a return to youth, so in that regard it doesn’t matter how old the band members were when they made it or how old I was when I first heard it.

Got Beat Up was released in April 1996 on Go-Kart Records. The cover art is made by John Michael Jones. It shows two wrestlers in a match and one of them gets beat up. It was produced and engineered by Bob Acquaviva. On the vinyl version, it seems that the track list on the back is incorrect, but correct on the labels on the actual records. It seems the cassette version of the album has an entirely different order of songs, but this could also be a mistake. The lyrics also come in that order in the lyric sheet. The album got really good reviews in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll and got called “One of the only pop punk bands that matters”.


  1. “Retarded”: The first song on the album is probably the best known one. Maybe because people love singing words that they aren’t allowed to. It sure isn’t the best song on the album, but as an opener it’s a very strong one. I can’t imagine the album opening with another song. Even if the cassette version supposedly starts with “New Shirt”, Ozzi says it starts on a “wonky version of a B”. It’s kind of a riff played on the three lightest strings. The song is about the end of a relationship and the cancelation of an engagement. There’s even some French in the song. I believe the word “retarded” stems from French as well. The chorus is sung by the protagonist, I’m guessing it’s a dude, yelling out that the girl that dumped him is “so retarded” and that he must be retarded too, for not letting go. I’m not really anyone to speak here since my pseudonym is “Read Hard”. Dan Ozzi claims that people need to “remember that words are just things people make up” and that Weston sounds like a bunch of sock-hoppers from the 50s and that them saying “retarded” is like a toddler wearing a Hitler mustache. I don’t think it’s that simple, but yeah. Dave says it’s a love song and that the context is not mean-spirited and is more about being “slowed down” and being frustrated with relationship, but he didn’t mean that as an excuse for using the r-word. The counter-chorus also includes a section from a nursery rhyme about GI. Joe.
  2. “Me and René”: Everytime someone sings my name I go crazy. Having a strange and French name few songs have my name in it. The female version “Renée” got a few more songs: “Walk Away Renée”, originally by the Left Bank, also recorded by the Four Tops and Billy Bragg did a new spoken word version, that is probably the best spoken word songs ever. Got Milf did a song called “Renée Sucks”. The Weston song, however, uses the male version of the name “René”, even if he never actually sings it, though there is a song on Matinee where he sings “René”. René, even if spelled the masculine way, is James’ ex-girlfriend. The band claimed it was inspired by teen novels. The melody sounds a bit like Screeching Weasel’s version of “Surf Goddess”. I really love the back-up vocals in these songs, especially the ones sung by James. I actually have problems distinguishing Dave and Chuck from each other, even their back-up vocals. The song comes from the point of view of someone that sounds super jealous and possessive “I wish you’d let other guys know that I am the only one/ Cuz every time you start flirting it just ruins all my fun”
  3. “No Kind of Superstar”: Another one of those dork anthems. This song is about not being a superstar with supercool clothes, but rather being a D&D playing, bad sneakers wearing geek. Chuck sings this song, and again I couldn’t have separated his voice from Dave’s. The “baba”’s in the background are fantastic as well. He sings about waking up in his underwear on the bus. Weston were known for playing live shows in their underwear.
  1. “New Shirt”: This seemed to be the song that was supposed to be the first song on the album, but it must’ve been changed to “Retarded”. I can see why they’d want this as a first song, but then again nah. It’s a short Weezer-esque song about wearing a new shirt to school to make the girl you like fall in love with you. It’s basically the intro to “Heather Lewis”
  2. “Heather Lewis”: This incredibly catchy pop punk number is thee Weston moment. James and Dave did some talking on the incredible Long Gone Loser podcast and said that Heather Lewis is a real girl ( I don’t know if writing a song with someone’s real name in it is sort of creepy or a great tribute. There’s at least nothing libel-requiring in this song. Just a song about Heather leaving him and going to college and having fun at sorority parties without him. The Steinways did the same thing with the song “Carrie Goldberg” and that was way creepier. She went to college too and is now an attorney that fights revenge porn. Not sure if the song “Carrie Goldberg” is as harmful as revenge porn, but still! “Carrie Goldberg” also has a Weston reference. In the background, you can hear someone sing “just like Kurt”, which is a Weston song from Teenage Rebellion.
  3. “Your Summer Dresses Bore Me”: This song gave us a peak into the sound the band would morph into on the next album, Matinee. It’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album and I like it more than any song on Matinee. The song is very indie-poppy and with nice little guitars in the background. The song is about being dumped and comforting yourself that everything about the girl that dumped you is boring, even, or especially her summer dresses.
  4. “Just Like You”: is the same title as a Brian Ferry song. However, the Brian Ferry song doesn’t start “It’s just like you to wanna hate me, but never take the time to date me” it doesn’t conclude with “I hope it’s fun to hurt me like you do”. A great little song there!
  5. “Teenage Love Affair”: The eight track “Teenage Love Affair” sounds like it’s straight out of a 50s movie. And according to Dan Ozzi the entire album is and I guess he is sort of right. This song in particular I would say though. Especially with its references to the jukebox and to soda shops. I would love to go to a soda shop! The song is about a guy seeing his girlfriend kissing another dude in front of the school and later sees them outside the soda shop and they didn’t even hold hands! In the end he finds out that she still likes him and goes back to him. A happy little love story right there!
  6. “Superbus 23” A song with few words, but sometimes a few words can say a lot. I guess I gotta imagine that this song is sung from the point of view of a young high school boy, if not it’s incredibly creepy. The song is about watching a girl on the school bus and the chorus goes “c’mon and touch me baby, we’ll talk about it later/You know I can’t find me another tenth grader”. Let’s skip to the next song, shall we?
  7. “Clumsy Shy”: I’ll always think of this album and the Wax album together. I don’t know if it’s because I bought them so close to each other, the PPMB thread or if there are many more similarities. But “Clumsy Shy” reminds me a lot of the song “All Over Again” from the Wax record. The intro guitar lead, especially. They are both great songs. The Weston song is about being a clumsy shy boy and still getting the girl. It’s a cute little track.
  1. “Varsity Sweater”: If there’s a song that’s really straight out of a dorky high school movie it’s “Varsity Sweater”. The song is about when the geek gets the cheerleader. She is really “the football Captain’s girl”, but she really flirts with the protagonist in the song, The song is also super catchy. In a just world, at least a just cheesy pop punk high school-world, if only the world was just that, this would a chart topper. I guess the song is more of a dream than a real affair, but it’s a great track. It’s also one the many songs on the album with reference’s to clothing articles as it is about a Varsity Sweater or a letterman jacket. “New Shirt” is about a new striped shirt, “Your summer Dresses Bore Me” is about dresses, “No Kind of Superstar” about underwear and “Running Stupid” references shoe goo, which I will get to when that time comes.
  2. “Got Beat Up”: The title track is also the shortest track on the album, clocking in at under 40 seconds. The song is about getting beat up and having to call your older brother. The person in the song gets beat up both on Friday and Saturday. The brother says that he should fight his own battles. The melody is similar to “Retarded”.
  3. “Running Stupid”: As I said earlier, “Running Stupid” references shoe goo, a repair product for shoes and roller skates. I have something similar for my shoes. The name shoe goo sounds very 90s, but the product was launched in the early 70s. The lyrics are a lot darker than the rest of the album and about “being full of holes”, the shoe goo is then a metaphor, it’s not only supposed to be used for your shoes, but for your “mental holes”. The song is also more “punk” than the rest of the album and it sounds lot like Bad Religion, especially the bridge. The lyrics are uplifting and the last chorus really lifts you up, “Remember when you said if I should need a friend it’s you”.
  4. “Heartbreak Sandwich”: The last song continues the same theme as “Heather Lewis”, being dumped because the lady is going to college. I wonder if Mark from Blink listened to this album a lot. “Heartbreak Sandwich” is a sappy and beautiful acoustic ballad, that sounds like a Replacements ballad, but with cheesier lyrics, if we’re thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich here. The second verse is something special, I can’t tell if the lyrics are the most cringeworthy and corny lyrics or wonderful, meaningful poetry. “I know I gave you a dirt sandwich, when you needed to cry and I wanted to kiss/ The picture we ended up painting were of a plate and a half-eaten sandwich/ Meaning we always took what we wanted and left the rest”. Dan Ozzi writes: “it sounds like something a C-student would turn in to a creative writing class. But goddamn if I don’t still get weepy hearing it”. The final line of the song is “I’m gonna let you go on with your life, while I trudge through mine”. These lyrics are heartbreakingly poetic to be a song about sandwiches. The listening experience of the album is complete. Started with the catchiness of “Retarded” and ended in acoustic heartache in “Heartbreak Sandwich”.


So, another article coming to an end. Listen to this album as much as you can folks! It’s almost a form of therapy. I will try to write a bit more often, but it still might take a while before next article. I couldn’t decide if the next album should be Less Talk, More Rock or How to Clean Everything by Propagandhi. So why not do both? I will try to compare the two.