Punk Rock 101 – Spotlight on Screeching Weasel

Screeching Weasel (see also, Screeching Weasel) is one of my all time favorite bands.  They have gone through a number of member changes over the years but they have never stopped making top shelf punk rock music.  Screeching Weasel hail from Chicago.  They are often mistaken for a California band because they were signed to Lookout Records and were a part of the pop punk explosion that centered on their label mates, Green Day.  Although Screeching Weasel gained some notoriety, they never broke through all the way and remain somewhat of a punk culture secret.

The band has a number of full lengths, splits, 7 inch records, and comp tracks to their credit as well as covering the Ramones’ self titled debut release in its entirety.  While two releases are all time classics of the genre (My Brain Hurts and Anthem for A New Tomorrow), each release has a number of songs that are worth any self-proclaimed “punk’s” time.  Here are my recommendations for those looking to hear the best of what the band offers (in more or less of a time line):

BoogadaBoogadaboogada – Although there was a CD before Boogada, this release contains the best tracks from the original (on Liberation/VML).  This CD contains 26 tracks and while they vary in length (:12 seconds to 2:45 of the 8 I’ve selected) and substance, the following eight songs capture the young snotty band at their best.

  • Love
  • We Skate
  • Stupid Over You
  • Runaway
  • My Right
  • Sunshine
  • Supermarket Fantasy
  • Hey Suburbia

My Brain Hurts – This is the band at their best.  Every song on the CD is amazing so just throw down the money and get the whole album.  What?  You don’t want to buy the whole damn thing?  Ok, your loss.  Check out:

  • Slogans
  • Guest List
  • Veronica Hates Me
  • I Wanna Be With You Tonight
  • My Brain Hurts

Wiggle – This one is solid but takes a small step back from My Brain Hurts.  The production is a bit rougher which is strange because Mass Giorgini (pop punk producer extraordinaire) was at the helm.  This release is probably one of the more divisive CDs Screeching Weasel put out.  Everyone I know that likes Screeching Weasel has different favorite songs off this.  Mine are:

  • One Step Beyond
  • Crying In My Beer
  • Like A Parasite
  • Second Floor East
  • Ain’t Got No Sense (Teenage Head cover)
  • Teenage Slumber Party

Anthem For A New Tomorrow – How did this CD not break Screeching Weasel out from the underground?  Each of the 18 tracks is a masterpiece in punk rock.  In addition to the snotty vocals and melodic guitar leads, Screeching Weasel incorporated some keyboards which pushed these already memorable songs into ‘catchy as a cold’ territory.  The four member line up of Weasel, Jughead, Panic, and Vapid is the fans’ favorite and this CD finds the guys creating greatness.  Like My Brain Hurts, I suggest buying the album in its entirety but if you are going to cheap out, check out these songs:

  • I’m Gonna Strangle You
  • Falling Apart
  • Leather Jacket
  • Peter Brady (Fat Mike from NOFX helping on vocals)
  • Every Night
  • Totally

How To Make Enemies And Irritate People – Within the liner notes, Ben Weasel documents that Screeching Weasel broke up after releasing this album.  However, hold back your tears because they got back together and continued making music after a few years off.  Dan Vapid left the band before the recording of this CD and Mike Dirnt from Green Day stepped in to cover bass guitar for the record.  This album often gets overlooked, likely from the turmoil that was going on with the band when the disk was released.  There are a lot of great songs on here.  My favorites:

  • 99
  • If I Was You
  • Burnout Girl
  • Surf Goddess (check out the Queers’ version of this song too)
  • Kathy’s On The Roof
  • I Wrote Holden Caulfield

Kill The Musicians – The band and record label compiled comp tracks, seven inch tracks, unreleased songs, and live versions for a 31 song release.  Although the recording quality is all over the place due to a number of variables (year of the recording, financial investment in the recording, musical proficiency of the band) there are a number of tracks that stand out.  These include:

  •  I Need Therapy
  • Something Wrong
  • Radio Blast
  • The Girl Next Door
  • Six A.M.
  • The American Dream
  • Around On You
  • Goodbye To You

Bark Like A Dog – Screeching Weasel’s first release on FAT Wreck Chords found the gang back together (Weasel, Vapid, Jughead, and Panic).  This release was a great way for the FAT WRECK mall punks to get introduced to SW.  ‘Cool Kids’ was the song that the band and label pushed but I think there are more interesting and catchier songs on here.  My recommendations include:

  • Get Off My Back
  • You’ll Be In My Dreams Today
  • You Blister My Paint
  • Handcuffed To You
  • Your Name Is Tattooed On My Heart

Television City Dream – The band’s second release on FAT was high quality.  However not all of the core four members of the band stayed.  These songs are fast, loud, and aggressive yet still manage to contain strong melodies.  I think this is the forgotten gem of the Screeching Weasel collection and I would rank it towards the top of their catalog; close to Anthem and Brain Hurts.  My favorites are:

  • Speed of Mutation
  • Identity Crisis
  • Plastic Bag
  • I Don’t Give A Fu*k
  • Only A Test
  • Cry Baby on the re-issue is amazing and probably didn’t make it on the original release due to the slightly different vibe it has from the other tracks rather than for being a lesser song.

Major Label Debut – This was a 6 song EP release on Panic Button, Ben Weasel’s start up label (with some backing help from Lookout Records).  This release highlights great musicianship and a polished sound.  Check out:

  • The Last Janelle
  • Racist Society

Emo – This is probably my least favorite CD by the band.  The song writing is uneven and goes in a direction that takes the band away from what they do best and down a road that stylistically falls short of what their ‘A’ game has proven to be.  The production on this CD doesn’t do the songs any favors either.  The best of the lot include:

  • Linger (Cranberries cover)
  • Static
  • Let Go
  • Last Night

Beat Is On The Brat – This is the Panic Button/Lookout re-release of Screeching Weasel covering the entire Ramones debut album.  It also includes four songs from a 7 inch record release.  Check out:

  • Whichever Ramones songs are your favorite
  • Pretty Girls Don’t Talk To Me
  • I Don’t Care Anymore

Thank You Very Little – This double CD came out on Panic Button/Lookout.  The first CD contains songs previously found only on vinyl, compilation CDs, or were unreleased.  The second CD is an entire live show from 1993 and is for only die-hard fans.  On CD 1, check out:

  • 27 Things I Wanna Do To You
  • Every Night (alternate version)
  • Lose The Dink
  • Suspect Device (Stiff Little Fingers cover)
  • Can’t Take It
  • You Are My Sunshine (cover)

Teen Punks In Heat – This 20 song release on Panic Button/Lookout varies in song quality.  The good songs are really good.  The short and snappy numbers to check out are:

  • Bottom Of The 9th
  • You’re The Enemy
  • Pauline

The longer songs to check out:

  • I Will Always Do (Manges cover)
  • Message In A Beer Bottle
  •  You’re Sorry Now
  • The Edge Of The World

First World Manifesto – Released after taking a few years off from Screeching Weasel, Weasel and Vapid teamed up with a few new players and put out an extremely good 14 song CD.  Unfortunately, Fat Mike from NOFX/Fat Wreck took offense to some of the lyrics on this which caused Mike and Ben to have a falling out.  Then, while touring this release, some unpleasantness occurred during a live show and the band was derailed.  These two factors took the focus off a strong CD and crippled its chances of being heard by a large audience.  Check out:

  • Beginningless Vacation
  • Friday Night Nation
  • All Over Town
  • Fortune Cookie
  • Little Big Man

Carnival of Schadenfreude – 7 angry songs penned by Ben Weasel.  These songs focus on the events and fallout from the First World Manifesto tour/fiasco.  It is a mixed result but the strong songs are excellent.  Check out:

  • Under The Bus
  • Parasite Murders

Baby Fat: Act 1 – This is the most ambitious project by Ben Weasel yet.  It is a 27 song punk rock opera featuring a ton of great musicians.  The songwriting is eclectic, the production is amazing, and the story is well developed.  This release works as a CD that can be listened to in its entirety or just as a collection of individual songs.  Find and download the storyline/lyric sheet and it opens up a whole new dimension to this CD.  Check out:

  • All Winter Long
  • I’ve Got VD
  • Things Aren’t So Bad After All
  • Living Hell
  • Poveretta
  • Disharmony

Disclaimer: I generally dislike greatest hits CDs and Weasel Mania is no exception.  Weasel Mania is a 34 song compilation that came out in 2005.  It has a number of good songs on it but I think you can do better by hand picking tracks from the above list I’ve provided and by getting My Brain Hurts and Anthem For A New Tomorrow in their entirety.

 

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