Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Screeching Weasel Finds Another Life

Let's move beyond the obvious. Screeching Weasel is not the same without John Pierson a.k.a. Jughead. Benjamin Foster a.k.a. Ben Weasel got caught up in all sorts of stupid at SXSW. Weasel and Dan Schafer a.k.a. Dan Vapid don't get along. It's hard to say if they ever really did.

After almost five months off, Weasel is back. And he didn't come back empty handed. He came back with a new lineup and a seven-track EP, Carnival Of Schadenfreude. The title track is exactly what it sounds like, a heavy-handed summation of the band bust up last March. He doesn't care.

... looks like my name is mud, I can't help to ask "So what?" — Carnival Of Schadenfreude

The EP had more track listing mentions than reviews, although some people tried to judge it on the opener. Weasel hasn't missed much of a beat. His first show sold out almost two months early.

All the songs are fast-paced punchers that sometimes power through full-length lyrics in under two minutes. The new lineup keeps pace, sounding even tighter than the boys who ditched. It also reestablishes the idea that Weasel has always been the head and heart of the band, as dysfunctional as that can be at times.

Sure, there is some soul missing without Jughead, mostly because the guitar work. As good as it is on this EP, it plays a little more rock 'n roll for want of punk. Just don't ever expect the original founders to patch things up. Jughead has plenty of other great stuff going on to keep busy and those two burned their bridges a long time ago. Before that happened, the band was just short of awesome.

Weasel was always like this song. Sometimes he relates, sometimes he hates, and sometimes he mocks. This time out, with his second reincarnation this year, he has plenty of mocking to do. Fox News follows the title track with more biting sarcasm and an amped up infectious beat. The music sounds a bit more tin than it did two or more decades ago, but the effortlessness of it all is addictive.

The tempo of those two songs also matches Weasel's mood. And so do several more. Queen Kong and Muscle Mary will quickly remind anyone what spontaneous, snarky, and ferocious punk is supposed to sound like. And Parasite Murders is easily the best pick of the bunch. It's the single to get if you download nothing else.

The new lineup for Screeching Weasel, at least for now. 

All told, the entire EP is worth a listen. No Reason To Lie and Under The Bus do drop the tempo down with Weasel leaning toward even more melody, but only a bit. Every song also showcases some solid guitar riffs and drum breakaways. They are good, partly because Weasel expects everyone to work so hard and partly because he picked a team with talent and balls.

The new lineup, at least as it was announced at the first live performance, includes: Zac Damon (guitar), Mike Hunchback (rhythm guitar), Dave Klein (bass), and Pierre Marche (drums). Damon and Marche are also in a new band called Miracle Drugs, which released its first single in May. We missed it then, but it's good enough to go back for as an introduction.

Props to these artists for turning out with Weasel. Not everyone would have done it, for fear of being chastised. The same can be said about Recess Records for signing Screeching Weasel and the Queers, who might have written a song about how hated Weasel is, but still showed up for the October concert.

Screeching Weasel's  Carnival Screams 5.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Say what you will about Weasel, but he did help usher in pop-punk during the 1990s and never lost his edge. His biggest fault isn't even a big ego or ability to every burn bridge behind him. He just talks too damn much at concerts. So, whether you like him as a person or not, Carnival Of Schadenfreude deserves to be reviewed beyond a track listing. It's punk. And good punk at that.

Carnival Of Schadenfreude by Screeching Weasel is on iTunes. You can also find Carnival Of Schadenfreude on Amazon. To keep up with their show announcements, check out their Facebook page. It's not easy to find. Neither are any other reviews. Most seem too afraid to do it. So we did.
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