So Dumb, So Stoked 7”
(Pirates Press Records)
In 2023, calling something instantly gratifying feels as though it might be a setup to defuse potential disappointment, but that is simply not the case when it comes to the So Dumb, So Stoked 7” – Teenage Bottlerocket’s first release for Pirates Press Records. In about nine minutes’ time, Teenage Bottlerocket illustrates that they haven’t slowed down, haven’t lost a step and haven’t begun to sound like they’re re-treading the same ground – in spite of the fact that all four songs on this release play to the strengths that the band has relied upon since they started, twenty-three years ago: the songs are short, Ramones-inspired and fairly drip with sarcastic humor.
As soon as needle catches groove on the A-side of this 7”, Teenage Bottlerocket starts running on the political ground that was first broken when Donald Trump took office six years ago. Singer/guitarist Ray Carlisle doesn’t bother trying to build to anything, he just blurts out, “What a dumb world we live in/ Where everybody thinks they’re smart/ We’re just unwilling to admit/ That we’re really dumb as shit” over a slightly surfy, slightly skate-y progression, because he knows it’ll work. The band’s confidence in the performance is infectious and will have listeners sold before Teenage Bottlerocket is finished running through the song’s two-and-a-half-minute runtime. Without giving listeners the chance to collect themselves too, the band digs into “It Wasn’t Enough” and, while not quite as fast as its predecessor, it keeps listeners engaged by offering a more polished lyric sheet (check out lines like, “It wasn’t enough I tried to feed Boomer but I ran flat out of dog food/ It wasn’t enough I had to buy more gas when I took a spin in Rachel’s Subaru/ It wasn’t enough no paper towels/ And I’m fresh the fuck out of tooth paste/It wasn’t enough I tried to feed you my heart/ And all you really got was a toothache”) that will give listeners pause as they try to decode the frustration that Carlisle’s voice and its relation to a girl who jerked him around.
While “It Wasn’t Enough” will have listeners still scratching their heads as they flip this 7” over, “So Stoked” will salve that curiosity with more conventionally-tempered loud/fast rules. Again, running through a cut which is less than two and a half minutes in duration, the band the band breaks convention and presents a scenario which has no flaws; the band runs through a lyric sheet which features no complaints or arguments and, for two and a half minutes, everything is right with the world. That will have listeners laughing, of course, because they’ll just be waiting for a shoe to drop and problems to manifest, but that never happens and listeners will be energized by an unconventionally positive song.
While the play through So Dumb, So Stoked has been fairly smooth – for those who have run through the first three cuts on the 7” in sequence – listeners will find that they completely understand when “Heart Attack” makes its way in a little more slowly, to close out the running of the release. The cool thing about “Heart Attack” is that, again, Teenage Bottlerocket manages to upset their established comfort zone. In this case, after sort of opening the song with a volley of drums which sound like they might have been inspired by The Ronettes, the band locks into the closest thing to a mid-tempo song in their entire catalogue and just bemoans a beloved, brutally. Lines like, “You put a damper on my day/ I wish that you would go away” exemplify the band’s approach to the song but, rather than coming off as lack-luster (which it very easily could have, because it functions so brashly outside of the band’s norm), it stands out and actually shines because it is so different for Teenage Bottlerocket. The bravery that it took fot the band to upset their own norm for even the three minutes it takes to play through “Heart Attack” makes it an impressive statement.
…And after the needle lifts from the 7”, listeners will realize that the So Dumb, So Stoked 7” really represents an exciting development for Teenage Bottlerocket. With four cuts reaching in as many directions as it does, the So Dumb, So Stoked 7” really implies that Teenage Bottlerocket may try evolving further beyond their long-established comfort zone; if that’s true, it’ll be exciting to see what may come next from the bad. [Bill Adams]
Teenage Bottlerocket’s So Dumb, So Stoked 7” is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.