Some of Teenage Bottlerocket's finest work.
Wyoming’s Teenage Bottlerocket are one of the best pop punk bands of the past decade. Sure, I’m speaking subjectively, but since forming in 2001, they have consistently brought out records jam-packed with catchy, fun tunes and shallow yet quirky lyrics; components that irrefutably make up the foundations of the genre. Teenage Bottlerocket’s latest offering, Freak Out!, is just as entertaining as its predecessors, regardless of the band’s apparent aversion to musical progression.
When listening to a record for the first time, there are usually tracks that instantly captivate you more than others. For me, ‘Done With Love’ had this impact during my initial run-through of Freak Out!. While the song has a typically arresting intro leading into a punchy verse, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why I was so quickly enamoured by it. I’ve considered the possibility that it’s just the commitment-phobe in me finding solace amongst the lyrics pertaining to having a heart of stone and wanting to be alone. Whatever the reason, from my perspective, all the elements have come together on ‘Done With Love’ to create an immaculate tune.
‘Never Gonna Tell You’ evokes the spirit of yesteryear’s pop punk bands, with lyrics like, "I’m never gonna tell you that I want to go make out, I’m never gonna tell you that you’re all I think about". Injected with a simple riff and hard-hitting pace, the song is pop punk in its purest form. ‘Summertime’ is similarly appealing, with vigorously enhancing harmonies scattered throughout its two and a half minute duration.
Freak Out! surreptitiously includes two tracks from Teenage Bottlerocket’s 2011 EP Mutilate Me, but despite the recycling of older material, ‘Punk House of Horror’ and the EP’s title track are both undeniable highlights. ‘Mutilate Me’ in particular stands out, somehow making sexual masochism sound like a good time by juxtaposing potentially dark lyrics like, "When your hands are wrapped around the front of my throat, you know I never want you to let go" with a peppy hook.
Not without its faults, Freak Out! contains songs verging on pedestrian. ‘Radical’ has a promising beginning, but becomes somewhat stagnant when its chorus kicks in. ‘Go with the Flow’ struggles in the same way, and doesn’t end the album as fittingly as another track may have. Additionally, Teenage Bottlerocket have seemingly appropriated The Misfits trademark sound on ‘Headbanger’, which resembles the horror punk band's classic ‘Bullet’ musically, along with incorporating Danzig-style vocals.
There’s no such thing as a perfect album, but in terms of my level of pleasure while listening to a record, Freak Out! comes reasonably close. To be fair though, with their offbeat lyrics, effortlessly powerful vocals and pop punk sensibilities, Teenage Bottlerocket generally have this effect on me. Even the songs that don’t entirely grab me are gratifying, and I will always hold a place in my heart of stone for any band with the ability to make sexual masochism seem like a fun notion.