Freak Out!Fat Wreck Chords
By Cole Faulkner
I’ve been resisting Teenage Bottle Rocket since their inception. Why? Because I’ve always felt that there are better, smarter, and catchier pop-punk bands out there. The Lillingtons (yes, I’m aware of the vocal connections), The Copyrights, The Methadones, The Riptides and a few from It’s Alive Records that I’m sure I’m missing have all overshadowed the boys even while reviews praise them. But it’s been fairly quiet on the three-chord pop-punk circuit as of late. So by chance I crossed paths with the Laramie, Wyoming quartet’s latest full length, Freak Out!, and it seems that I’m finally ready to join the party.
Freak Out! resolves my single biggest complaint with the Teenage Bottle Rocket discography: the songs just weren’t engaging. Perhaps I’ve simply been disconnected with pop-culture in past years, but I finally “get” the majority of these inside jokes. “Headbanger” opens the album with a hilarious observation over the medical concerns of headbanging at concerts (“he whipped his head around and gave himself a concussion”), “Necrocomicon” makes the incredibly smart fusion of comic book festival Comicon and H.P. Lovcraft’s mysterious “book of the dead” lore (the Necronomicon), and “Mutilate Me” makes for a good chuckle about pain-based fetishes.
So the band finally hooked me with their content, but they’re keeping me because of how tight they’ve made their core sound. These guys have really shaped up since their Total or Warning Device days, and for three-chord punk rockers, they sure know how to use every ounce of musical talent in their genre’s inherently limited scope. All of those minimalist solos are catchy as hell, and thanks to a makeover on production that started when they signed with Fat Wreck Chords a few years ago; the tracks feel solid and full. Tracks like “Never Gonna Tell You” ride the wave of crunchy but clear chords, while those like “Who Killed Sensei?” rev up the tempo for a sonic speed boost pacing the album’s meaty fourteen track run time.
Up until this point I’ve always referenced The Lillingtons’ masterpiece The Too Late Show as my coveted three-chord pop-punk reference point. It is with great pleasure that I invite Teenage Bottle Rocket up to the podium to share that title with Freak Out! (vocalist Kody Templeman
Can finally stop living in his own shadow). I can’t file a complaint with the album – even the less interesting tracks are interesting enough to keep me glued. I would be surprised if any comparable act could upstage Teenage Bottle Rocket in the year ahead. One of the year’s undisputed best.