Teenage Bottlerocket - Freak Out!
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Release Date: July 3, 2012
In their first full-length since 2009’s They Came From the Shadows, Laramie-based Teenage Bottlerocket certainly continue on the path of tongue-in-cheek, not-so-serious punk rock with buzzing guitars and driving drums. To be fair, the musical side of TBR isn’t anything revolutionary as it veins itself very much in standard punk rock fare. But the attitude and unapologetic nature of this album certainly goes much farther if you’re looking for something that still embodies that punk spirit without delving too far into serious issues like politics or social status. No, Freak Out! is a record about chicks, comics and Top Gun – leaving bigger matters at the door in an undoubtedly successful attempt to inject some necessary humor into an otherwise fun and carefree album.
From the anthemic title track, there’s a sense of lightheartedness throughout Freak Out!, anchored with completely ridiculous yet honestly enjoyable lyrics. I mean, I don’t think I’ve heard a song about someone getting a concussion from headbanging at a party (“Headbanger”), but amongst the pretty straight-forward, melodically driven guitars of this record, Teenage Bottlerocket keep things fun on practically every level. Even when they do manage to get a bit more serious – I mean about as serious as you can get about chicks in punk rock man – the band doesn’t lose its edge musically or resort to goofy cliches. “Never Gonna Tell You” is strictly solid punk rock that is ripe with hooks, but it tells a different story than losing a girl or being stuck in some terrible love spell – all while finding a way to compare their relationship to that of a zombie and its prey.
But lyricism aside, TBR prove they have strong songwriting chops bolstered by great control of the melodies they deploy throughout Freak Out!. The gritty “Cruising for Chicks” matches the mood of track perfect, building tension before an all-out rocking chorus that is short and sweet. “Maverick” automatically scores bonus points for basing itself on Top Gun, but the high-flying melodies and ridiculous lyrics make this a standout. The quite relatable “Summertime” is a track commanded more by strong vocals and a nifty guitar solo, something that is commonplace throughout this record. Musically, Freak Out! doesn’t rely terribly on blistering tempos to get its point across – although “Who Killed Sensei?” does stand out as the most cranked up of the bunch. It really doesn’t matter though, as the band seems honed in enough on their craft to keep us interested through vocal melodies and buzzing guitars that even if you don’t particularly like the speed or lyrical direction this album takes.
2012’s definition of fun music will often grab names outside of the punk rock realm, but Freak Out! is an undeniable tour de force in hook-filled songwriting with a sharp spike of punk wit. Prime material for a sunny summer drive, Freak Out! is an album you would be foolish not to pick up for a spin.