Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Headphones: Be Your Own Pet's Get Awkward

I like the old school Punk Rock. I like it a lot. Actually, I probably like it way more than a man my age should like it, although considering Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore signed BYOP, I really have zero to be self-conscious about. I remember a guy I worked with once wondering how I could possibly evolve my music tastes backwards – I loved sweet singer-songwriter stuff and classic Rock heavy on 10-minute solos when I was 17, but now I can barely even tolerate that stuff. I need my music LOUD, raucous, and (mostly) short and snappy. My attention span is shrinking as I age. Be Your Own Pet fit the bill nicely by piecing together all my favorite parts of the second wave of US punk, from Misfits to Black Flag, Descendents to Bad Brains, Avengers to Replacements. Howling pixie Jemina Pearl – a real-life version of what Avril Lavigne thinks she is – likes to sing about dreamy boys, bitchy girls, sex, violence, cult films and zombies, cartoons, drinking under age… you know all the finer things in life. It’s the new generation of teenage junk culture, a young band (average age now 19) for whom Dookie was their gateway drug, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fill the spot that Scooby Doo did for their parents (“Bummer Time” is Pearl’s heartfelt tribute her favorite pizza-eating mutated amphibians).

There are a couple of noticeable developments from the ’06 debut (which is a CSR fave). First, the greatest improvement is the addition of new drummer John Eatherly; the kid is only 17, but he’s already a powerhouse, leaving your jaw hanging with his power and speed. Second, the songwriting is growing in interesting ways. The band is moving away from bonkers hardcore, discovering their melodic senses (“You’re a Waste” is a straight-faced kiss-off with no fingers crossed), and trying on riff-centric classic CB’s-model punk, and like the Ramones and Blondie, they’re reaching back to elements of 50’s & 60’s teenage rebellion themes, updated with an explicit twist (though their label cut three tracks, including the BFF-breakup ballad “Becky”, from the US version for being “too violent”, which is total horseshit; find ‘em on the internets). The result is a more edgy, less cock-rocky, more fast-n-fun version of what The Donnas do, yet still with flashes of hardcore bite (though that hardcore, like the 65-second “Food Fight!” with its cries of “Sucks for the janitor!!”, and the undead love song “Zombie Graveyard Party!”, is more Milo Goes To College and “TV Party” than “Banned In DC”). Best of all, the galloping “Heart Throb” is sexual confusion at 90 mph with no seat belt. If I have one complaint, it’s that the lyrics feel a bit undercooked, but Jonas Stein’s guitar playing is getting sharper by the song, and Pearl shines with a more focused, robust performance. Her voice has matured into a powerful, bluesy belt; I’m sure in the coming years, we’ll hear her exploring her powers even more, with a tight rocket ship of a band behind her.

"Food Fight" [video]

"The Kelly Affair" [video]

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