America Needs Weird

Johnny's Gang/Thee Makeout Party
AAA Electra 99
Friday, Nov.

America needs weird shit right now—not weird-pathetic, which is what we've been choking on every time we take a break from ordering rare records off websites in the Netherlands and bounce onto the AP Wire ("Extra! Extra! Man Accused of Shaping Baby's Head!"), but just good, old-fashioned, wholesome, by-God-all-American weird. Thank God we have Squelch and his newest pet project: a concert in which a bunch of high school kids dressed like zombies sat around listening to rockabilly music. Truly, this is how the healing will begin.

We missed Squelch's performance—we were smearing fake blood all over our face at home, and it had to be just perfect before we'd go out—and we feel far the poorer for it. He's got a new band called the Oilpans that we're scared of already. ("I think he should get up there and croon more," remarked Oilpans guitarist Dano. What did he do? we asked. "Something with pomegranates," he replied—oh, Squelch, don't ever change!) But we did catch another delightfully painful set by Thee Makeout Party (full disclosure: we'd tell you we were in bands with some of these kids, but since we practice together about as frequently as Dick Cheney can achieve erection, we don't feel it's relevant), Orange County's answer to a question Brit garage overlord Billy Childish might ask if you punched him repeatedly in the teeth and left him bloody and burbling in the gutter.

Thee Makeout Party always delivers an experience. Sometimes they suck louder than two-for-one-day at the lipo clinic; sometimes they turn teenage fucked-up-ed-ness into something appallingly amazing. This time they did both—decide for yourself if that's progress or regress. "Can't Leave the House" was rollicking Sonics-style schizo stomp that steamrollered us stupid, but then they popped at the seams and crash-dived into a wobbly sludge-jam take on their title theme, "Makeout Party." (Lyrics reprinted in their entirety for your edification: "We're, uh, gonna have, uh, a makeout party, uh, tonight, uh!") We've heard their demo, and it was actually damn decent—too bad you won't hear it since a certain someone accidentally, um, pissed all over it, rendering further mix-down impossible, not to mention rather pungent—but if you drove your car as carefully as they play live, the police would shoot you on sight. But that's what makes them magic in the first place, isn't it?

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Follow-uppers Johnny's Gang (a passel of clean-cut rockabilly kids) had guitar chops you'd buy at Ikea—sophisticated, elegant, complex and oh-so-clean—and delivered their own warm-and-fuzzy take on the OC roots-punk sound (they covered, among others, the Ramones, Chuck Berry and, oddly, the Pixies, which they hit note for note). Hey, guys, if you don't listen to the Real Kids yet, you should—trust a rock-critic scumbag and pursue that shit, and we'll love you for it. It made us miss our own long-withered youth; we used to have this kind of scruffy charm, but we pissed it all away on ironic self-deprecation and never bothered to take guitar lessons.

Have this band play your house next time your parents go out of town: if you're a high school kid with passable taste in music and Thee Makeout Party is too challenging for your pastels-and-earthtones sensibilities, you might find a little joy with these boys. Yeah, they played too long, but they were basically good, clean fun. And their No. 1 fan had nuts enough to stand up in front of a room of obediently seated high school zombies and shake his bootie like there was no tomorrow. We'd say his enthusiasm was infectious, but there's a little too much infectiousness going around these days, at least in the OC Weekly mailroom (and have you heard about the strange pustules on our wrist?). So instead, we'll say they were a good bunch of kids who could push for better than good, maybe, if they keep practicing their scales and go buy something reissued by Norton Records. (Look it up, boys; look it up.)

And that finished off Anaheim's inaugural zombie party. Squelch made sure to grab the mic as the zombies shuffled home (gotta meet their zombie curfews, else their zombie parents might get zombie pissed), saying things like, "We hope to host more zombie events in the future," which is just an awesome thing to say. We'll stock up on fake blood, just in case. Punk might be dead, but that's the whole point.

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