Another in a series of posts about recent online releases by Lehigh Valley bands.
I love high school rock bands. I’ll listen to anybody’s, any time.
I’m a sucker for the concept of kids getting together in dingy basements, overcoming their jitters, regurgitating their shared influences and finding something of their own together … even if the execution frequently leaves much to be desired.
How fortunate, then, that Boss Tweed should come along just in time for the launch of the From the Valley series.
Boss Tweed — known to the girls at Our Lady of Perpetual Insouciance High as Korey, Michal, Riley and Isaac — posted what I think is their first full-length recording, Petrella Orchards, just about a week ago.
“This album was written for all those miley cyrus fans,” their Bandcamp page declares. “We are modern cosmonauts and are sexy and hairy.”
Clearly, they don’t take themselves too seriously. (Plus, they’re savvy enough to maybe pick up a couple hits from Web-surfers looking for Miley Cyrus.)
But are they any good?
Well, that depends what you’re looking for. I didn’t find any of their lyrics (such as could be understood) particularly memorable.
And for the most part, their rhythm section doesn’t swing, cook, bop, groove, jive or otherwise propel the band in any firm direction.
If I had to give these guys any advice (and yeah, I’m fully aware that no one asked me, and I’ve turned into the annoying, well-meaning 40-year-old I never wanted to become), I’d suggest that they pick a band they like that grooves, and absorb its music for a while.
Sleep it, breathe it, pour it on their pancakes, dive down in it until something like it starts coming out in their own tunes. Because sexy cosmonaut shenanigans go over much better when people can shake their asses at the same time.
Enough of that, though. Criticizing garage bands is like shooting at lifeboats. And, in any event, there is plenty to like about Petrella Orchards.
The rubbery chug of the guitars suggests the glory days of rock n’ roll primitivism, redolent of “Surfin’ Bird” and twisting in the basement.
High school bands today have access to better performing and recording gear than ever before. But I kind of like the fact that Boss Tweed — which cites surf music as an influence — still has a touch of the old twang people used to get playing Harmony guitars through cardboard Sears amps.
“Mother Theresa,” meanwhile, features a gnarly fuzztone that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Nuggets. That gladdened my heart to hear, let me tell you. I bet these guys could do a pretty mean version of “Psychotic Reaction” if they could be troubled to learn it.
(“Strawberry Jam,” with its reverberant vocals, insistent riffing and weird not-quite-a-Hammond-organ sound, could hold its head up proudly on Nuggets as well. Sexy modern cosmonauts for the win!)
I was all set to dislike “Jack Bauer is a Badass” — pop culture is the easiest possible thing to bash out a song about, and maybe the laziest.
And then Boss Tweed’s singer (it’s either Korey, Michal or Isaac) unexpectedly burst out with a falsetto “Jack Bauer!” about an octave higher than the others. It was loose and sloppy and inspired, and it didn’t give a damn, and it reminded me of Willie “Loco” Alexander doing the same thing on “Mass. Ave.” In other words, it ruled.
I could probably toss out a couple other examples, but you get the idea. The spirit of DIY basement rock is good and alive in these guys, if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing.
And in the end, a high-school band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and stumbles every so often (the last word of Petrella Orchards is an embarrassed “Shit!”) is far better company than a high-school band that can crank out professional-quality, note-for-note covers.
“Strawberry Jam” is probably my favorite song here. But it’s worth the trip to go to Petrella Orchards and pick your own.
Petrella Orchards can be streamed and downloaded here.