Album Review: Various Artists – “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore”

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Here’s a quick punk rock history refresher: In 1988, Lookout Records released a massive, double LP (and double CD) compilation known as “The Thing That Ate Floyd”. Consisting of thirty-six tracks by just as many artists, the compilation was a snapshot of the Gilman scene at the time. Some of the bigger names attached to the project included Operation Ivy, No Use for a Name, Isocracy (featuring founding Green Day drummer, John Kiffmeyer), Crimpshrine, The Mr. T Experience, Neurosis, and The Lookouts (featuring current Green Day drummer, Tré Cool). It was kind of a big deal.

Flash-forward to the present: Lookout Records is no more, having officially closed in January 2012, but Lookout-founder Larry Livermore still knows that punk rock has a thing or two to offer. Teaming up with Billie Joe Armstrong’s Adeline Records, Livermore has put together a new compilation featuring modern bands from all around North America. Entitled “The Thing That Are Larry Livermore” as a reference to the 80’s compilation, each band included was handpicked by Livermore himself and each song contributed to the compilation is a brand new track.

From pop punk heavyweights such as Dear Landlord, The Copyrights, and Mixtapes to lesser known acts like Weekend Dads, City Mouse, and Be My Doppelganger, “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore” contains sixteen acts from the modern punk, pop punk, and indie circles. Livermore has stated that the way that he chose the acts for this project was based on the same criteria that he used when deciding what bands to sign to Lookout Records, implying that “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore” is essentially what the label’s roster would look like today (he has more or less confirmed this in a recent interview).

Dear Landlord kicks things off with “Walking Distance” picking up right where they left off from last year’s split with the Dopamines, “Portrait Parle”. Similarly, the Mixtapes song, “Right Where to Find Me” reflects the sound that the band has developed as a four piece, and simultaneously acts as a teaser for their upcoming full length. Lipstick Homicide’s “We’ll Be OK” is a fast pop punk tune that recalls equal parts Green Day and the Unlovables, and The Dopamines’ “Business Papers” sounds like it could have been lifted right from the previously mentioned “Portrait Parle” split.

Pop punk super-group House Boat makes an allusion to Lookout alumni the Queers in the  title to “Love Song for the Reclusive” while offering more of the same 90 seconds of self loathing pop punk that everyone has come to love from them. While he’s only in a million bands these days, House Boat’s track is the only place to catch Mikey Erg on this entire comp, so savor it while you can! Meanwhile, Vacation’s “No Mercy” is a vicious tune complete with snarled vocals and a buzzing, lo-fi garage quality to it.

DC punk act, The Max Levine Ensemble, who was infamously insulted on the radio show of the equally infamous Ben Weasel (whose own bands, Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales, were signed to Lookout at one point), continue their trend of poking fun at Weasel with their song title “Anthem for a New Morning After” and the lyrical subject of finding that “right person” for the night has a biting sarcasm to it that it can’t be helped but be wondered if the song is a mockery of Weasel’s style.

The inclusion of Emily’s Army might have seemed like an act of nepotism at first, considering the relationship between Livermore and Emily’s Army drummer Joey Armstrong’s dad (and Adeline Records owner), Billie Joe Armstrong, but rest assured that it was not. “Good Looks” might be the best song by the young band to date, earning its place on the album by combining a catchy melody with lyricism that any young teen living in the Alternative America can relate to. And while Emily’s Army has captured the melodic sounds of the early Lookout era, Weekend Dads bring back the snotty Gilman attitude in the 85 second “Forget It” and City Mouse’s “One Good Night” recalls the rough rock and roll sounds of The Runaways.

Mean Jeans pull off an impeccable Elvis Costello-meets-Ramones feeling on “Bad Dream” while Be My Doppelganger’s “Disappointers” takes its cues from the Dear Landlord school of thought. The Hextalls are still singing about their parents (specifically dads) while dropping F-bombs left and right on “My Dad and Me”, and “Mr. Monday” has Night Birds channeling the Adolescents so perfectly that it might as well have been an unreleased track from the classic hardcore band’s eponymous debut. The final two tracks, “Prove Me Wrong” by The Copyrights and “San Andreas” by the Visitors, are both fitting as closing tracks and mark a great way to end this compilation. “Prove Me Wrong” supplies the exciting half of the conclusion; building up to a finale of gang vocals shouting several choruses at once, and “San Andreas” provides the cool off for the listener with its laid-back catchiness.

In a couple of ways, “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore” is a spiritual successor to “The Thing That Ate Floyd”. The name is an obvious nod to the 80’s compilation, and the artwork was also done by the same man, Pat Hynes (he also did the artwork for Dookie). However the biggest similarity may be that this new release acts as a documentation of the modern day punk rock scene just as the Floyd release documented the 80’s Gilman scene. The scope of where the bands come from is much larger this time around, which might account for the smaller number of groups involved, but having a smaller roster isn’t necessarily a bad thing; as the saying goes: “quality over quantity.” By halving the number of bands involved helps to cut down on the less serious tracks that were found on Floyd and emphasize the excellence of the featured bands.

In conclusion, the only thing that can really be said is that The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore is an excellent compilation. Fans of the bands involved will already know what to expect, but anyone who has been looking for their fix of pop punk and indie ever since Lookout Records closed down, look no further than The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore. You won’t be let down.

5/5


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