Tales From WyomingRise Records
By Cole Faulkner
After a comfortable two-album tenure with San Francisco’s Fat Wreck Chords, Laramie, Wyoming quartet Teenage Bottlerocket continues their label hopping endeavors. This time they venture to a label in Portland where few three-chord pop-punk bands have set foot before: Rise Records. For such a strategic label, the signing is an encouraging first as Rise Records continues to diverge from its hardcore/metalcore roots and lead the charge in the seldom-identified punk-rock resurgence that seems to be occupying the larger independents like Epitaph these days.
To mark the occasion, Teenage Bottlerocket offers up their sixth studio full length, Tales From Wyoming. The disc confidently continues the simplistic quartet’s proven reputation for quick witted, Ramones inspired rattlers. The usual comparisons to The Lillingtons, The Copyrights, The Methadones and The Riptides still very much apply, with Teenage Bottlerocket infusing their unmistakable mark therein. Quick and dirty opener “In My Head,” with its highly repetitious, single line chorus should quell any fears associated with the label change. Likewise, follow-up “I Found The One” and “Nothing Else Matters (When I’m With You)” takes the place of the rather chipper pop-punk, smitten-with-love tunes that typically scatter a Teenage Bottlerocket playlist (also see: “Can’t Quit You” and “Been Too Long”). And while the trio of opening tracks lack a certain lyrical distinction, the tunes maintain the tight pop-punk musicianship that makes Teenage Bottlerocket such a stable pillar.
It isn’t until the modern, Minecraft inspired tune “They Call Me Steve” that the band gets smarter with their phrasing and themes. “They call me Steve, I’ll do anything you want me to, I’ll dig a hole to hell and back for you,” describes the band of various scenarios inspired by the open-world, block-based video game phenomenon. Meanwhile, “Cockroach Strikes Again” takes a page from The Lillingtons’ playbook of television inspired murder mysteries and sleuthing capers. The guitar solo-strengthened “La Collina” switches gears to glutenous, near-fatal overindulgence of Italian cuisine, and “Haunted House” gets into the Halloween spirit early with a rapidfire tempo that rattles off references to Vincent Price and various horror cliches. Across Tales From Wyoming, the band runs the gamut of quick to quicker tempos, layering on Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman’s various vocal harmonies in “Can’t Quit You” and dirtying their production in the fiercely aggressive, self-destructive piece, “I Wanna Die.” Overall tempos land closer to the mid-range, but the overall effect remains familiar.
Of particular note, “First Time” stands as the band’s first real point of stylistic divergence. In fact, the album closing acoustic finale feels very polished and foreign. Unravelling as a violin guided, sentimental emotional piece; even the vocals mark an interesting departure. Teenage Bottlerocket doesn’t do anything wrong per se, but the song just sounds more like Dave Hause mixed with a sappy solo artist rather than something fans would sign up for when they see the traditional skull and crossbones on the Tales From Wyoming cover. Hopefully the change doesn’t signal a sign of all things to come, even if a similar track or two on subsequent albums wouldn’t be unwelcome either.
By and large, Teenage Bottlerocket’s Rise Records debut fits their well established reputation for tight, ear-grabbing pop-punk tunes. Tales From Wyoming’s core remains as catchy and witty as ever, even if a handful of more lyrically generic tracks tend to dominate the front end. A safe bet for fans and newcomers alike.