So much of popular music today is child’s play, and for good measure. Two of the most vital new forms from the last thirty years — punk and hip-hop — seem ridiculous when attempted by anyone with a strong foothold in middle age. It takes youthful energy to ply such raw sounds and emotions successfully, and it probably takes a youthful mindset to be able to swallow such music in large doses.
The members of Be Your Own Pet, teenagers that they are, have youthful energy in scads. If their debut had cut off anywhere around the halfway mark, it would be best of the year, hands-down. Maybe one of the best of the decade. Maybe it will rank so amongst the teenies who never look for a pansy-ass comedown track amongst their CDs full of thrash. But for anyone who does have a strong foothold in middle age (including, I’m starting to accept, myself), the energy implodes into repetitiveness by the time the track numbers hit double digits.
But, oh, what fun the album is at first. Subverting the fact that the most fun thing about this band, for both punk purists and pervs alike, may be cutesy lead screamer Jemina Pearl, opener “Thresher’s Flail” takes its sweet time before any vocals show up, nicely emphasizing the band’s chops. Mizz Pearl gets naughty on “Bunk Trunk Skunk,” hollering lines such as “I’m an independent motherfucker!” and “I’m here to steal away your virginity” with the same convincing rage Zach de la Rocha used to use to shout down racist cops. Drummer Jamin Orrall (if that’s his real name, his parents were quite the cunning linguists) puts in some nice set work at the beginning of “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” before Pearl comes back in threatening to roll up to your town on her BMX and burn it down. “Adventure,” taking on a bit of a surf-rock feel, is one of only a couple tracks to do any straying from straight-ahead punk. And the Pets even name a song “Stairway to Heaven,” on which Pearl coos Zep’s titular last line before the song revs back up and she starts complaining about her head being on fire.
But an album adhering so strictly to a simple formula can’t help but become redundant. The tenth track, “We Will Vacation, You Will be My Parasol,” is the exact same song as the fourth track, “Wildcat!” “Love Your Shotgun” and “Fill My Pill” are nowhere as interesting as their sexual double-entendre titles might suggest. At least things end well with “Ouch” and its interesting chorus line: “When there’s no more room in hell/ The dead will walk the Earth.”
A high school student of mine is in an emo/screamo/whatevero band. I like to try to broaden his horizons by introducing him to new music sometimes. But he freaks out if any of it is soft for even one second. All he wants is reverb reverb reverb, yell yell yell. Maybe if we all only had to worry about witty comments to post on our MySpace page, we’d all want to hear music louder and faster all the time. But at the end of a hard adult workday, the last thing most of us want is something more headache-inducing.
That kid would love Be Your Own Pet. Your inner teenager will too, until your inner parent tells you to turn it off.
Be Your Own Pet Web site (streaming audio)
Ecstatic Peace Web site