Friday, March 25, 2011

Flashback: Screeching Weasel - 'Boogada Boogada Boogada'

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

For those that haven’t heard, during a Screeching Weasel concert at SXSW, singer/guitarist Ben Weasel (aka Ben Foster) assaulted two female fans. This led to public statements from all of the other band members moving on as well as bands dropping out of WeaselFest 2011 slated for the end of May at Reggies Rock Club. I feel no need to chastise the man any more than he already has been. Music forum comment sections are holding down that fort, and that guy’s going to have a hard enough time in the coming months (for his part, Ben did release an apology on his website). Instead, I’m going to use this opportunity to revisit one of my favorite high school albums, Boogada Boogada Boogada.

Within this album is contained every dimension of punk-pop imaginable: rude, smitten, hateful, bored, playful, and in the case of "I Hate Led Zeppelin," even sacrilegious to some. We’re given a Del Shannon cover ("Runaway") and a pseudo-Ramones-cover ("I Wanna Be Naked"). ADD is exemplified to the extreme, with "We Skate" in at 12 seconds and "Hunter" in at 22. But ultimately, what makes this a great punk-pop record is the near-hypocritical dichotomy that is laced throughout because of this range the album employs. Rather, not the hypocrisy, but the recognition of it and throwing it right back in the face of listener. "My Right," which is an emboldening declaration of personal freedom, is immediately followed by a track where the chorus repeats “I don’t give a fuck about Nicaragua.” Of course, a band called Screeching Weasel should be assumed to have a sense of humor and never be taken at face value. The latter track could most likely be more of an attack against political punk bands claiming to care more about the situation than they actually did. Though considering "Police Insanity" appears earlier on the album, it can’t be ruled out that these guys actually did care about some issues at one point.

As for the humor, there are plenty more obvious examples. There are criticisms of North Shore kids surfing in Wilmette ("This Ain’t Hawaii") and cougar-hunting before it was cool ("Supermarket Fantasy"). Banal topics like being mad at a paper boy or the hassle of purchasing a used car make their way on the album. At the same time, we find Ben dealing with inner conflict ("Ashtray") and concern for teenage drinking ("American Suicide"). Again, it is these juxtapositions which keep the album fresh, allowing the entire gamut of human emotion and thought (and guttural noises) to make their way on to wax. As for the album closer "Hey Suburbia," I’ll always be perplexed. Were they so much more enthralled with the same suburbs I couldn’t stand or is it all sung with a sarcastic tone?

This is certainly one of the rougher cuts the band ever put out, but I always felt it had more personality than many of the other straight ahead Ramones rips that would follow. If Reggies decides to continue to hold WeaselFest, feel free to support, deride or spit on Ben when Screeching Weasel is still scheduled to play Friday May 27th and Sunday the 29th.

It’s unfortunate that this band has been marred by these recent events. But so furthers the everlasting question posed by Jack Black in High Fidelity: “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?” As for a final word on the album: for me it renders little more than a brief nostalgic daydream (which I try hard to avoid), but I still think it’s something your little brother would enjoy. Share it.

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