Friday, May 16, 2008

Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward

The members of Be Your Own Pet are basically 20-21 years old. I bought their single "Damn Damn Leash" used for like $3 in a record store in Memphis, and I had a brief conversation about them with the clerk. "They're from here, aren't they?" "They're from Nashville." "Are they good?" "I saw them once, yeah they're good."

"Damn Damn Leash" is a pretty good song, and so are the two others on the EP, but it unveils none of the mastery that BYOP exercise on Get Awkward, as consistent and energetic a 29 minute album as is practically possible to make. Now, I do not have BYOP's debut, but it's supposed to be good too, and I may go back to Amoeba Music and get it soon. Get Awkward is awesome.

Maybe it's only awesome for me, though! I don't know if BYOP has relocated to L.A., but if "The Kelly Affair" is as authentic as it sounds, few songs have painted as appropriate a picture of the city, even in health-conscious 2008. The song, the first single, is a little bit annoying with its chorus "Everybody here parties all the time/Everybody here has sex on their mind/Everybody here is popping pills," but is also pretty awesome for the same reason. More personally, "It could be dangerous/Living in this valley" makes one typical L.A. resident remember when he was contemplating moving there, considering all the positives and negatives ("weather" (i.e. 420) vs. a generally dismissive attitude from the other 49 states), finally deciding it is worth the risk, but with the feeling that something bad could still happen. In the context of the video for the song, or a Beyond the Valley of the Dolls-influence, the lyrics make total sense--if you are young, hot, critically-adored, on the verge of your greatest success, you will be eaten alive by manipulators and sycophants--perhaps to the degree that you confuse the two. Other people can capitalize on your success, too.

The rest of the album is a mouthful for me to write about, but mainly I just like the way Jemina Pearl sings and I like that she sings about what she does. Like the first track, "Super Soaked," is pretty sweet all the way through, but the best part for me is when she goes, "I don't wanna listen to you!" Sometimes it almost sounds clumsy and it makes even more endearing, as tight and flawless as the band is for 97% of the record.

Notably, each song on the album presents something special about it, rendering skipping around not totally necessary, though there are obviously better songs than others ("Super Soaked," "The Kelly Affair," "Heart Throb," "You're a Waste," "Bummer Time," (despite being goofy) "Zombie Graveyard Party!" and "The Beast Within," which ends the album absolutely awesomely, almost like a refrain from "Kelly Affair"---with Pearl screaming about how she doesn't want to go to bed, and about how she's got nothing left to learn, only time to burn, and probably the most concise tossed-off line, "Can't you tell I don't give a fuck?"). Once I had a friend play me a recording of her singing a song with a live band karaoke-backing her up, and I had trouble telling her who I thought she sounded like, but I settled on Joan Jett. Were I to hear that again, I would say, "You sound like Jemina Pearl!" And she, Jemina, could front the Detroit Cobras or the Paybacks.

BYOP very much has that garage-y, sped up, "power" rock and roll sound, but they are truly a band steeped in the punk tradition. Does anyone still not know that Thurston Moore "discovered" them and added them to his roster on Ecstatic Peace? That's kind of the first fact people mention about them (that and "They're young"), and indeed their lyrical and musical approach does not do much revolutionizing of the punk paradigm, beyond taking Beat Happening type-subject matter and marrying it with Black Flag-type frustration and viciousness. Sure, you could compare BYOP to YYY, but that's far off the mark. YYY are much more arty. BYOP can't drink without someone knowing they're breaking the law (!) and they sound like a band in that position. Let us hope that two more years of growing older does not convince them they should start taking themselves "more seriously" as artists--at present, they're doing just fine.

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