Stealing The CoversFat Wreck Chords
By Cole Faulkner
Teenage Bottlerocket are known for their fast paced Ramones inspired pop-punk. The Wyoming based band has never claimed to be particularly innovative, but they’ve garnered quite the reputation for their endless enthusiasm and tongue-in-cheek humour. Given that their latest effort, Stealing the Covers, is a covers album, it would be easy to dismiss the band as playing to that reputation. But a closer look reveals that Under The Covers is actually premised on fairly original grounds. These aren’t Me First & The Gimme Gimmes style radio hits, rather, the band has opted to shine the spotlight on lesser known acts that never made it big, but were a healthy part of the pop-punk underground (described as “obscure and unsigned” on their label’s website) over the last ten or fifteen years.
The result is a collection of cover songs that feel more like a disc of original material – or carefully curated mixtape – if you’re not an absolute diehard of the Laramie pop-punk scene. While I was familiar with a handful of the band names on the compilation, I was surprised how many songs I was hearing for the first time. It’s clear that the band chose these songs because of how compatible they were with Teenage Bottlerocket’s fun loving nature. The first three tracks, Varsity Weirdos’ “The Way I Know,” Hollywood Blonde’s “Back and Forth” and Juke’s “College Town” each channel the prototypical, quick tempoed pop-punk that waffles back and forth between uppity toe tapping ditty and catchy, chorus heavy repetition. Other covers from bands like HEAD, The Gullibles, and The Mugwumps also make their mark. The difference is that while most of Teenage Bottlerocket’s songs tend to share overarching similarities (ie. comparable chord structures), these covers all present slightly uniquenesses that actually make Stealing The Covers one of the Wyoming quartet’s most diverse in nature.
Some of the best album highlights stand out due to the one two punch of unique sonic footprints and original lyrics. The first big standout comes in the form of Sprocket Nova’s “Robocop is a Halfbreed Sellout.” If you find yourself wondering, “Nova who?”, you’re not alone. I honestly had never heard of this project, but a quick google search turns up a free download of the original song and album. Given that the song plays like a nerdy Nerf Herder tune meets The Network’s synth, it should be an instant download. The same Nerf Herder-y comparison can be made with The Four Eyes’ “Hat Nerd,” a song about that friend who sports a hat for every occasion. While in the habit of dropping notable comparison, I also was surprised that “It Came From The Radio” was not in fact an unreleased track by related TV themed pop-punkers The Lillingtons, but rather originates from an band unbeknownst to be, The Blendours. Simply put, it’s an absolute blast.
The album ends with a curious take on “a bear walks into a bar” (“Why The Big Pause”) joke that was originally given the melodic pop-punk treatment by The Punchlines. It’s the perfect ending for an incredibly fun album, and Teenage Bottlerocket once again make it sound entirely their own. Stealing The Covers is remarkably coherent for a collection of covers, and will naturally find a long term place in the Teenage Bottlerocket discography.