Back in March, the punk world was all atwitter with the news that everyone’s favorite Ramones-influenced unpretentious popular indie punk band from Wyoming was back in the studio. Then, when Teenage Bottlerocket announced a couple of weeks later that the new album would not contain any new original music but would instead be a cover album, Facebook was littered with disappointment.
Apparently the idea behind Stealing the Covers had been kicked around by the band for at least 10 years and it may even have been late drummer Brandon Carlisle’s idea (reports vary). If that’s the case, then the fact that the first full-length Teenage Bottlerocket album recorded in Brandon’s wake is filled with covers of obscure songs by unknown bands, makes this album an entirely appropriate tribute to co-frontman Ray’s fallen twin.
A drummer change in the lineup can potentially change a band’s sound more than any other position excepting the singer (see blink-182’s transition from Scott to Travis and the Bouncing Souls’ Shal to Michael). But then album opener “The Way I Know” functions similarly to previous album openers “Freak Out” and “In My Head” – no instrumental introductions found here. And that’s the remarkable things about Stealing the Covers: for an album of cover songs with a brand new drummer it really does sound just like another Teenage Bottlerocket album, even early Teenage Bottlerocket – both the opener and the second track, “Back and Forth”, would not have been out of place on Total (2005).
And then the haters be hating: They’re just another Ramones ripoff and Screeching Weasel wannabes; They’re getting slower and slower, mellowing out at least 10% for Tales From Wyoming (2015); They’re old now and should change their name to Middle-Aged Bottlerocket; They write the same song over and over; They record the same album over and over.
But it’s a good song they keep re-writing, and it’s a good album they keep re-recording.
And the familiar TBR sound continues with “College Town” and “Don’t Go.” Really, it isn’t until the new-age synthesizer at the opening of “Robocop is a Halfbreed Sellout” (by short-lived Laramie, WY-based Sprocket Nova) that the listener might scratch his head, raise an eyebrow, and wonder “what the hell?” but even then the song rocks out in typical TBR fashion, and by the time the synthesizer reappears before the final refrain it no longer seems out of place considering the eighties-themed lyrics.
Most of the songs on Stealing the Covers seem to have been selected because someone in the band thought it was funny. We’ve got the 35-second instant classic “Shit Fuck God Damn”, originally by a band called Artimus Maximus which, we learn from the extensive liner notes, first appeared on a four-minute EP with “a good 6 or 7 songs”. Then the band is “riding my rocket ship to the gay parade”, written by another no-namer, The Gullibles, whose members were in junior high at the time and broke up before graduation. “Hat Nerd”, from The Four Eyes, is one of the dumbest songs ever written, according to Kody.
The album closes with a contribution from The Punchlines, a song (named after a punchline) called “Why the Big Pause”. Or maybe “Paws”. A really long pause separates the first and second halves of the song, but the lyrics are about a bear with big paws. Y’all’ve heard the joke before. And maybe the real punchline is that Teenage Bottlerocket has managed to make an album of cover songs sound just like one of their regular records. The fact that hardly anyone has heard of any of these bands before, let alone any of the songs, is at least a pretty original idea. Don’t be turned off because someone else wrote the songs. Stealing the Covers sure sounds like Teenage Bottlerocket to me.
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