Teenage Bottlerocket – Stay Rad!

Wyoming pop-punkers Teenage Bottlerocket have been a model for consistency over the course of their careers. Eight studio albums in and the band have rarely a step wrong. Their successful formula is a deft a combination of a few things, but outside of their love for pop-punk and the ability to craft a great hook, it is their consistency in keeping things direct that have taken them this far. Their brand of pop punk is of course, born of those who made Lookout Records home in the early 90s (and boast a similar tone to some of those found on Fat’s former sub-label Honest Don’s). It made household names out of Screeching Weasel, The Queers and their kind, bands who swaggered through their melodies with snotty attitude and a love for The Ramones. It is as some would say, the best kind of pop punk.

Stay Rad! is 14-songs of snotty, silly, fun songs of pop-punk melancholia that doesn’t stray too far from the Teenage Bottlerocket playbook. While the album starts on a somewhat slow note, it blasts into gear with the Carmageddon-themed second cut “Death Kart”. It’s a terrific song that showcases the band’s downbeat pop-punk to a T. Stay Rad!’s highlight is probably the earlier released single “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, the best punk song about a pooch since The Suicide Machines’ “Sometimes I Don’t Mind”. Its heartfelt musings of a dog’s life, replete with lines like “you can teach me how to beg / I’ll lick my balls and then when you get home / I’ll hump your leg”, is vintage Teenage Bottlerocket. Back-to-back with the equally terrific “Night of the Knuckleheads” and you’ve got one of the best one-two punches on a record for some time.

Humour and a lighthearted poke at life have been part of the Bottlerocket formula since their first LP and Stay Rad! is, as expected, filled with it. “The First Time That I Did Acid Was The Last Time I Did Acid”, and the hilarious “Creature From the Black Metal Lagoon” (with the line “spreading hate and terror all throughout our land / he knows that Deafheaven is just a shitty Warped Tour band”) are the kinds of songs that fill you with much punk mirth and joy. They turn it up to 11 in “Stupid Song”, From the title it sounds incredibly juvenile, but it actually sings about the pains and tribulations of daily life and its escape through music; “when the world ain’t treating you so nice / and all you wanna do is kill yourself / just grab that dusty record off the shelf and listen to another stupid song”.

The album’s heaviest moment is “Little Kid”. The song, about the tragic passing of Teenage Bottlerocket’s drummer Brandon Carlisle, sings its heartbreak with poise. It is a poignant example of how the band have grown over the course of the career while never losing a sense of who they are. As “I Never Knew” brings the album to a close, there is an indelible sense of contentment, that “man, that was a good album” feeling. Music doesn’t always have to be revolutionary, and on the opposite end, needn’t be lowest common denominator stuff to appeal. It just needs to have meaning, vitality, and in the case of punk, urgency.

Like the Weasels, Queers, Mr. Ts, Chixdiggits, and Squirtguns before them, Teenage Bottlerocket have urgency and attitude in spades. It is the most essential of blueprints; get rad, stay rad.

(Fat Wreck)