Reviews Teenage Bottlerocket Freak Out!

Teenage Bottlerocket

Freak Out!

I’ve been hearing about the new wave of pop-punk for a while—how bands like Menzingers and Teenage Bottlerocket are reshaping the genre, building off predecessors like The Ramones, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, etc. while bringing something new to the table. It’s personally taken me a while to get around to checking them out myself, but with the release of Freak Out! on Fat Wreck Chords, it seems the perfect time to dip my toes in the pool.

For all the talk, I’m not hearing a lot new here. There’s a lot of live Ramones energy, a focus on vocal melodies, and a seeming inability to write serious lyrics. With song titles like “Cruising for Chicks,” “Necrocomicon,” and “Punk House of Horror,” well, what do you expect? A curious element to the content is that, while not taking itself seriously, it holds to fairly timeless and well-tested subjects like making fun of metalheads and jocks, with punk rock insider-jokes aplenty in “The Pit” and “Punk House of Horror.”

The dual vocals work well and give a sense of variety that few bands of this type can achieve and, while the sound is relatively formulaic throughout, it doesn’t feel monotonous—which is pretty much goal #1 to being successful with this style. Kody Templeman’s songs tend to have a little rougher edge, whereas Ray Carlisle leads the melodic focus. A few of the vocal melodies have me thinking of Banner Pilot, and “Mutilate Me” alternately does some nice vocal trade-offs before falling back on some classic “whoa-ohs.”

I find myself enjoying the latter half of the record more, as the lyrics take something of a backseat to the melodies and rhythms. “Summertime” has a sunny disposition that fits its content and stands out as a highlight—in large part because it doesn’t feel like a cartoon—and closer “Go With the Flow” maintains the positive vibes with some nice harmonizing and structure. “Maverick” is a classic pop-punk song and, while silly, the music overshadows the Top Gun-centered lyrics and it works better for me. All in all, Freak Out! is a worthy record and fans of the style probably already know what to expect and should love it. The record definitely picks up energy on repeated listens but, on a personal level, the lyrics did it in. While I can appreciate music that isn’t overly serious, I do prefer a bit more subtlety.

6.9 / 10Loren
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6.9 / 10

6.9 / 10

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