Sometimes it is hard to get creative in finding words to describe pop-punk release after pop-punk release. There is really only so much that you can say about ninety-second, fast-paced, three-chord songs, even if you love the genre as so many of us do. Plus, punk fans can be a finicky bunch, at times deriding bands for maturing and straying from their pop-punk roots, while at other times deriding bands for continuing to put out the same album over and over (and over) again. Generally speaking, there has to be something in particular to make a release standout, whether it be expert guitar work, higher-than-normal production value, a particularly nimble-fingered bass player, etc.
What does it for me with Vacation Bible School is the lyric/vocal combination. I’ve long been a fan of lyricists who are self-deprecating, unafraid to raise a middle finger to themselves just as quickly as they raise it to other people or to society in general. And it takes a decent vocalist to do that without sounding condescending or overly self-serving (or overly whiny and snot-nosed). On their debut full-length, “Ruined The Scene” (released on Underground Communique Records), Vacation Bible School combine high energy, chunkier-than-average (Gimme Gimme-sytle) pop punk melodies with the sort of ‘fuck you, fuck me, fuck society’ ethos that spawned the genre thirty-plus years ago.
Album-opener “Douchebag” is perhaps the best example of all of the above, kicking off with vocalist Johnny Vacation snarling that “you can fuck right off, you can shut your mouth, you can get the fuck out, you can leave right now.” Or “The Worst Of The Best” with its “nothing but the worst for you, nothing but the worst will do” chant-along outro (that could stand to feature more in the way of chanting, but that’s nit-picking). Perhaps the album’s best song, or at least my favorite, is “You + Me = Shit,” which has evokes images of the study hall notebook scribblings of a pimple-faced high schooler but, when Johnny Vacation sings “The world has gone to shit and so have we,” he comes off quite sincere. Also, this track features the album’s best guitar solo, always an added bonus in a world where guitar solos have long been going the way of the major label contract.
Pop punk is always going to sound like pop punk, but VBS do a pretty admirable job of changing the tempos, time signatures and length of the songs that they don’t sound formulaic, meaning that “Ruined The Scene” is a very easy album to listen too without getting bored, even when playing it on repeat a few times through for purposes of doing a review.