THE SCRUFFS, WANNA MEET THE SCRUFFS? (2002, REV-OLA)
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The Scruffs came up in Memphis after Big Star as part of a bubbling pond of little fishes who never really got theirs, and although this is sold back to us future people as Big Star #2—and although you can definitely tell they heard "Kizza Me" enough to figure out the fingering—it's more like Raspberries aspirations and Replacements/Real Kids results. Which is: kinda endearing slouch delivery, which makes it a lot quicker to win you over. Wanna Meet the Scruffs?was released to little reciprocation in 1977 but was more about the spirit of 1956 ("I was born back in the '50s, okay? I'm a child of the '60s/All I wanna do is play guitar/Play so loud you notice who I am!"), and if they'd powered up and axed the slower songs (which is where the Big Star really shines through: "Bedtime Stories") maybe they could have made it as something supposedly connected to punk. "Frozen Girls" is just about New York Dolls roadhouse rock (with the lipstick rubbed off), and "I'm a Failure" snaps out like a Quick track, which is great for us listeners now but couldn't have been a good deal for the guys who actually had to keep checking the mailbox for record contracts—already one step behind the hottest also-rans of the day. At least they had a sense of humor about it: "I'm only 23/I see everything!/I'm a failure!" Caboosed to the end of Wanna Meet? are two tracks from an earlier 45: alternate versions of "Break the Ice" and "She Say Yeah" light up here with a superbright AM sound (you could cook an egg on the crash cymbal). The Scruffs were men of few words (most of which were: "Oh!" "Yeah!" and "Be-bop-a-lu-la!"), but they knew how to say enough: "Love is a lost cause/But you can give it a go!" takes 11 seconds to sing and then they're rocketing into a tongue-wagging guitar solo before even a minute gets past; that's the A-side for the ride to lover's lane, and "She Say Yeah" is the B-side for the awkward way home, a song that catches the same strange honesty as Big Star's "Thirteen" on a fireworks-at-the-football-field chorus that says, "I don't wanna change your mind/I love you as you are tonight!" If the rest of the record hit that high, I'd probably build a teepee with this and the two Mice albums and start growing a guru's beard; as it is, Scruffs might not quite be a lost classic but Wanna Meet? is absolutely a lost charmer.