3.18.2008

Music Review: Be Your Own Pet's Get Awkward

by Stephen Tringali

Get Awkward, the newest release from Nashville-based punk rockers Be Your Own Pet, cashes in on all those Yeah Yeah Yeahs' comparisons that their first release garnered in 2006. The riffs are tighter. The choruses distinguishable. The form present. And the fun? Not so much.

Though both the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Be Your Own Pet (BYOP) share some minor similarities (female vocalists, punk aesthetic, umm…that’s about it), the comparisons were never warranted. BYOP’s youth is so essential to their image — the absurd and chaotic behavior, the high school-themed songs — that growing more mature and not less (or, in this case, finding a tighter post-punk structure similar to that of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) only hurts their intentions.

Alas, BYOP grows up (if only a little) on this latest release and, in the process, throws out some of what made their first LP so much fun: gone are the off-kilter song constructions that built a song’s major hook, then burned that hook, and finally see-sawed back and forth between the opposing tempos.

This is not to mention that the erratic and quirky lyrics that characterized the first album are not entirely present. Sure, the lyrics on Get Awkward cover the same territory that their self-titled debut did — high school, mean girls, house parties, and reckless behavior. But something is lost in the transition between the two.

“Becky,” one of the few standout tracks on Get Awkward, provides some consolation: “It was great how you made me a friendship bracelet / But I didn’t know you made one for Becky-face!...It doesn’t matter anyway / ‘Cause I’ll brand new friend, okay / We’ll kick your ass / We’ll wait with knives after class.” The other band members then break into the chorus: “We don’t like Becky anymore!”

Despite the musical and lyrical hang-ups, there are a few gems on this disc. The aforementioned “Becky” is probably the best Get Awkward has to offer. “The Kelly Affair” packs an excellent chorus, as does “Bummer Time.” Many of the other tracks — particularly “Super Soaked,” “Black Hole,” and “Twisted Nerve” — turn on teen-aged nihilistic punk charms for the first few seconds and then drive forward on that formula for the next two and a half minutes.

After the release of BYOP’s first album, many critics (including this one) speculated as to where the band would run. They are so terribly young (bassist Nathan Vasquez was 16 when the group release its first EP, Damn Damn Leash, in 2005), and they all have so much room to grow into new musical elements. There was some hope that the band might blast their peculiar punk songs into new experimental territory. After all, their first album was released on Ecstatic Peace, the label owned by Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore.

Clearly, though, Get Awkward is confirmation that BYOP is no longer into experimentation; they are into plain and simple punk rock — no matter how bland that might be.

(The photo shows bassist Nathan Vasquez, vocalist Jemina Pearl Abegg, and drummer John Eatherly of Be Your Own Pet playing Maxwells in Hoboken, NJ. The band's promotional photo is from Ecstatic Peace/Universal Records; the photo is originally by Leia Jospe of punkphoto.com. Be Your Own Pet continues its European tour with an appearance tonight March 18 in Dublin, Ireland. To see the band messing around in the studio recording Get Awkward, please check the video below, which is cut to "Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicyle" from the band's debut.)








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