Better Be Good

“You know, all the things that so many intellectuals have been trying to tell you was WRONG with America, that it has no culture, no depth, no tradition, no class. You know, the same type of people who don't dig the Seeds. Well fuck them, Jack, this may be the hamburger culture, but its the only thing we've ever known so those of us who dig it should tell these assholes to beat it—to go read a book or something for crissakes, to just LEAVE US ALONE. We wanna have some fun!”

This was the kind of band you would read about in some kind of thing 20 years too late and here they were pointing out the best burgers in Anaheim—Chicken Pie Shop, homemade onion buns, all fresh veggies—and playing a show in the city park on the day that matched their birthright zip code (Sept. 28, 2006) and here they were with songs they wrote and practiced not even in their own garage—they'd zigzag up and down under the 91 underpasses to whosever houses had parents out of town—and here they are now with a debut record on the plate (Teenacide, Jim Freek's home for pop orphans) and a single on the windowsill and sheepish luck repaying them for being so lonesome and so good for so long. As the guy said on the back of the Big Star album: “No clever phrase can describe my joy.”

Bassist Lee Noise—Vox teardrop he got from someone else's garage—and guitarist Dan Bush—white Telecaster—are the two guys who held this thing together through about six years of line-up half-sense and they grew the band from busted-knuckle Childish/Gories two-chord cave rock into something like '70s candy bands (Raspberries and 1910 Fruitgum Co.) with a little more Real Kids real life in it. Lee was basically some Dictators verses born live (“Who's that boy with the sandwich in his hand?”) and Dan was the reluctant singer, ready more to keep his Telecaster away from direct eye contact, but then he turned out to have one of those striated voices (John Felice, Chris Bell when it's a fast song, Bill Fox, all these guys who grew up hearing the Beatles and Chuck Berry on the same radio station) and these understated lyrics that hid little vital/brutal experiences in things that sounded like love songs and worked beautifully that way, too.

He went in and out of Anaheim's Willowz (as Dan Lowe) and took Willowz drummer Alex Nowicki out with him, and Lee brought in guitarist Sean Bohrman (longtime Anaheim weirdo necessary) and this settled Makeout Party in a way they'd never found before. I saw grandmas dance to this line-up—a tough thing to do. Real people liked them, not just music shitbags. Like the Mice: “They had a genuineness that appears only after a few listens,” as it says right inside that reissue, though I would edit to switch the “only” with the “after” because it's such an obvious thing.

They had a song called “Hedberg Boogie” (a scratch title but headed to legitimacy on printed label) which turns into Ride's Nowhere just for laughs—an exercise they did for fun that eight bands are trying and doing worse at as sincere careers up in Silverlake—and then finishes with a couple chords as a punchline, and then they'd go from locking antlers in three minutes of feedback oscillation to the Gentrys' only hit, which your mom and dad and Jonathan Richman all remember, and which goes: “Keep on dancin' anna prancin'!” Scheduled single has “Boogie” for b-side and a-side is “2 EZ 2 LUV U” (Prince influence) which is a cute little valentine with crystal guitar on the chorus (“Too easy to love you/too easy to be loved!”) like that first second of “Can't Seem To Make You Mine” and then it turns into a Crystals song for a wall-of-sound ooh-la-la outro that fell out of 1965 and is still floating.

Nobody remembers to touch this kind of thing anymore—they're stealing Beach Boys symphonies but they don't remember the Beach Boys' soul, and now it's all columnated dominoes doing no one any good. My favorite Beach Boys song is “Do It Again,” my favorite Real Kids is “Better Be Good,” my favorite Dictators is “Sleepin' With the TV On” and you can see how we're floating here, too, landing down in Anaheim between the Rancho Del Rio and the aerospace bomb labs and the Disneyland roller coasters. So no one can touch this band, really—no mean fingers that poke them in bad directions, no bad jobs that suck the brains out of them, no famous friends that wonder why it's six years and they're just now getting a garage to practice in. They do what they want to do in a truer way than most, and I'll call it classic because I grew up with Beatles and Chuck Berry on the same radio stations, too, and when this comes out again in 20 years I'll write the mash note for the back. I grabbed Lee all of a sudden and got a moment of truth, and I would be shy to print it except I know he's right and I still respect my sense of duty: “Our hearts are on our sleeve—we're sweet and sincere and chaotic and dysfunctional—it's real rock N roll—we know nothing else!”


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