Screaching Weasel – Teen Punks in Heat

Screaching Weasel
Teen Punks in Heat

Here’s the new album from Chicago’s Screeching Weasel. For those who are not familiar with this group, you could tell them that their new album sounds just like the Ramones, and they would probably thank you. (As a matter of fact, Screeching Weasel covered the Ramones’ first album in sequence several years ago.) For those not familiar with Screeching Weasel, this is as good an album as any to start with. And for those of you who don’t have any records from either of these bands, well, its never too late to catch up on good rock and roll. (Although you’re probably some kind of communist, aren’t you?)

Let me tell you, it sounds great. You would swear guitarist Jughead stole Johnny Ramone’s entire guitar rig. The drums rip along at breakneck speed. Everything is mixed perfectly, with no overproduction or needless overdubs. This is quite simply the best sounding punk record I’ve heard this year. Punk bands take note: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH GETTING A GOOD STUDIO SOUND!

In fact, I think I expect more out of these guys than other “punk” acts, so I’m going to dig a little deeper. Ben Weasel’s voice just isn’t as strong as it could be. Ben’s vocal intonation is very nasally, and he often sounds like a combination of several punk vocalists, with more than a little Darby Crash snarl to it, and perhaps some Mike Ness in there too. I wouldn’t really call it distinctive, if only because there are about 50 inferior bands in every city in the US who have adopted this vocal style. This is seemingly the only barrier preventing Screeching Weasel from attaining mainstream success, which probably suits them just fine.

Another mildly frustrating thing about this record in particular is the songwriting, but not because the songs are bad. Quite the opposite is true, actually. “I’ll Stop the Rain” is a punk-pop masterpiece that will lodge itself in your head for weeks on end, and it’s a wonderful summation of everything I love about loud rock and roll. Then we hear a track like “I Love You,” which simply states “I love you, I want you, you know I always will,” sentiments that sound out of place in the context of a breakneck punk song, or “Erection,” which is just plain awkward. Ben Weasel is a mighty fine songwriter, but he needs a better internal editor, because not every emotion is best expressed within a fast punk romp. The good news is that the band gives you 20 chances, of which 15 songs are winners. You can compare this side by side with Ramones albums (excluding the first four and greatest hits, of course!), and, song for song, Teen Punks In Heat leaves many of them in the dust. That statement is considered blasphemy by most Ramones fans, but I’m sticking by it.

Perhaps with all of the lame music I hear lately, I expect this band to help carry the mantle of loud rock music, which is a role the band probably wants to avoid. The bottom line is, if you’re even THINKING about getting the latest Green Day record, or any other “accomplished” punk-pop record, skip it and get this. Green Day should be cutting checks to these guys. Screeching Weasel does it better and more honestly than just about anyone going today. Just go get it, punk.