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

So, this thing continues. If you haven’t read it you should probably read (https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/read-hards-classic-pop-punk-picks-33-propagandhi-how-to-clean-everything-ess-talk-more-rock/) 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.

Connection:

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.

Connection:

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.

Connection:

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.

Connection:

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 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsCstfMvS4c) , 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.

Connection:

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”.

Connection:

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.

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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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Image result for propagandhi how to clean everything

Image result for propagandhi less talk more rock

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

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

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

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

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

Western Apathy and Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

Connection

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

Animal Rights

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

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

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

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

Connection

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

Ignore the Message We Convey

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

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

“Anti-Manifesto” (How to Clean Everything)

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

Connection

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

Samson: The Man of the Sun

“Anchorless” (Less Talk, More Rock)

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

“Gifts” (Less Talk, More Rock)

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

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

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

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

Connection

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

“Shoebox full of photos;

found a grainy mirror.

Sunken cheeks and slender hands.

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

Hey how’d you get so anchorless?”

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

Image result for weston got beat up

It’s been half a year since last column. I guess this is an article I’ve sort of dreaded article. Mostly because my arch enemy, Dan Ozzi (the jaded punk-hulk) over at Noisey, already wrote an article on this album (https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/westons-got-beat-up-turns-18-the-ultimate-high-school-album-is-finally-legal). I feel like he said most of what had to be said, but I still want to add something about this album, so I’ll do some comments on what Ozzi has written and share my own memories related to this album. Something that Ozzi focuses on a lot is the teenage high school theme of the album, that is impossible to deny that is there. Sometimes the lyrics border on sort of creepy or cringe-y. Which has always raised the question how old these guys were when they released it. They formed in 1990 (1991 according to Dave Weston), so if they were still teenagers or in high school in 1996, they must’ve been twelve or thirteen when they first started. They started as a five piece post hardcore band. They formed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and they are the only ones I can think of that are from the town of Bethlehem. They put out the 7’’ “Thursdaydown” in 1992, but on their debut album A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion they had turned into a pop punk band. The band was named after singer and guitarist Dave Weston’s parents, because they let the and practice in their basement. James Alex Snyder, now world famous for his band Beach Slang, joined the band on guitar in 1992. He also started taking more and more over as a vocalist in Weston as well. When bassist Jeff Saltern quit in 1996, he was replaced by Jesse Short. Chris Brenner from Digger was also in the band from 1990 to 1994. I would say Got Beat Up is even poppier than Teenage Rebellion. The next album Matinee: Music from the Soundtrack took the band into a more indie sound and their major label debut The Massed Albert Sounds continued in the indie rock genre even if they weren’t on an indie label anymore. Instead of making the band bigger and reaching new audiences, signing to a major label ended in the band’s break up.

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

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

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

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

Image result for me first gimme gimmes are a drag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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“The Mask of Anarchy”

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

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“Everytown”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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