Basically, imagine the main characters from Clerks (not the sequel) were in a band, and performed to the utmost of their ability in said band. That’s what this album sounds like. Thanks for reading!
Actually, it sounds like the work of any good high school dropouts (though i’m not sure which among them, if any, were high school dropouts). They sound all 18-like, with their non-stop fun-o-stream of fast-paced guitar-led rock songs with their adjectives all separated by hyphens about things like driving fast, wasting time, being a young bum, cigarettes, and occasional ranting about authority, but not Dead Kennedy-esque “I hate authority,” political stuff, it’s all personal, self-aware angst. Otherwise it’s a good, unpretentious time for these ragtagamuffins. Not the guys you want as your best friends or coming to your house and drinking all your dad’s booze, but the sort of people you definitely want to see at any and all crazy house parties.
And the songs are more or less all good! Mainly because a) every single one of them has some sort of catchy riff, my favourites being “Otto” and “Careless,” and b) lead singer Paul Westerberg basically sounds like Conor Oberst mysteriously having a good time. Maybe it’s the midwest accent; definitely it’s the raspy howl, but this is a fun raspy howl; one you can enjoy for hours and minutes. Also, c) It somehow doesn’t sound dated despite being recorded in 1982 – this is the garage, basic-rock-band sound The Strokes and therefore five million other bands spent millions recreating, and d) There are 18,225 songs, so you’ll find plenty to occupy those funny holes in the sides of your head.
Really, what this album is all about is remembering the feeling of being a type of nineteen year-old you probably never were. It’s a blast of energy with the occasional self-awareness to remind you that these guys were up to something (“Shiftless When Idle,” the best and deepest song here, sums up the entire aesthetic with its chorus “I’m shiftless when idle / and I’ve got time to waste”) special, with the possibility that they might just end up as dropout alcoholics seeming a distant impossibility. And who doesn’t want to remember a more fun version of their late teen years? Also, the ballad, and original B-side “If Only You Were Lonely” is a cute portent of melodies to come, even if Westie still has some ways to go.
Unfortunately, when you have 22,032 tracks, like the re-release of this album does, 13 of which are bonus tracks, some of them are bound to be decrepit of ideas. “Shutup” is a little Good Charlotte (remember those fuckers?) and appears twice, “Don’t Turn Me Down” and “Oh Baby” sound like sped-up early Beatles (which I like, but it’s jarring), while a couple of the demoes are just…meh, I don’t remember how “You Ain’t Gonna Dance” or “A Toe Needs a Shoe” go, and I think he meant a foot on the last one, and even then it’s poor deductive reasoning.
Also, contrary to popular reports, Westie can NOT drum. He doesn’t even try on this album! Wait, you don’t know your Pavement B-sides? Well, you can crawl up my ass and spit nickels. Wait, you don’t know your Sun City Girls? Well, well, well, at least you aren’t kept awake at night by a fridge.