Yes, he wears a creepy bunny mask and dances around in his underwear. There, that’s out of the way. What’s more important is that Tucson-based garage-punk oddball Justin Champlin really knows his way around a sweet rock ‘n’ roll riff. And when I say “sweet,” I’m talking bubblegum. Steeped in malt-shop tropes funneled through both the Ramones’ classic blueprint and longhaired power-pop harmonies, Nobunny’s second full-length, and first for Goner, shows that there’s considerably more mileage to be gotten from this “schtick” than most would have predicted. And that’s primarily a testament to Champlin’s songwriting.
Monotony can always be a concern when a band or artist employs such elemental tools, but while the ooh-ah-oohs on “Pretty Little Trouble” will surely sounds familiar, Champlin is fairly removed from mere retro nostalgia. “(Do the) Fuck Yourself,” for example, blunts even further the Buzzcocks’ endorsement of autoeroticism from over 30 years prior. While “I Was on (The Bozo Show)” and “Blow Dumb” depart completely from Champlin’s more Chuck Berry–inspired tendencies, employing twisted carnival-tent psych and pure Velvets choogle respectively.
Champlin is a guy who knows what he likes, and his influences aren’t hard to identify. But Nobunny’s overall sensibility is singular, if not downright bizzarre, to a point where stylistic touchstones should ultimately be absorbed and enjoyed as part of the overall package. Just like the fact that he’s in his underwear and sporting a bunny mask.