When the adolescent-powered punk group Be Your Own Pet hit the scene in 2006 with their self-titled debut, I lamented that the group came four years too late. My inner fourteen-year-old self loved the album – a mix of playground taunting, teenage aggression and unadulterated street speed. Complete with the underage, stage-minded lead singer Jemina Pearl Abegg – who quickly garnered comparisons to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s renowned frontwoman Karen O – the Nashville-based group created a fan base of punk devotees who missed the genre’s uncensored belligerence but preferred to skip out on the movement’s more violent connotations. Comprised almost entirely of high schoolers, the band filled this niche and received attention for its youth and undeniable talent. On its sophomore attempt, Get Awkward, Be Your Own Pet tones down its previously unchecked aggression without compromising the haughty attitude that put the group on the radar.
Naturally, making music dictated by punk’s “fuck everything” ethos is going to raise some eyebrows. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that certain songs on Get Awkward’s U.S. release through Ecstatic Peace were cut by Universal Records, the label’s distributor. Universal claimed that three songs on the album were “too violent” for U.S. listeners – a bold claim from a label that has released albums by Hatebreed and Marilyn Manson. The label couldn’t compromise its commitment to “family-friendly” media by fully supporting a band that is fronted by a precocious, blonde-haired 20-year-old gal, who is notorious for her wild stage persona and for screaming on her newest record that she “wants you so bad inside it hurts!” The band’s international label, XL Recordings, found nothing objectionable on the record and released it on March 18 with the three banned tracks: “Becky,” “Black Hole” and “Blow Yr Mind.”
The most noticeable difference between Get Awkward and the group’s debut is the gradual elimination of minute-long filler tracks of pure punk mayhem – which comprised the bulk of the Be Your Own Pet LP – in favor of finely tuned songs with a more pop sensibility. This is apparent on “Creepy Crawll” where Abegg becomes a hybrid between a laid-back Karen O and a quirky Peaches as she narrates the oft-told story of a girl who feels lost within her failed relationship. This progression towards more listener-friendly jams is continued with “You’re A Waste,” which vaguely sounds like an early No Doubt track. Also, the song is incredibly relatable for listeners, as Abegg muses passive-aggressively “Now I’m glad you’ve got a broken heart / ‘Cause I’ve been trying to fix mine from the start.” The song is the record’s closest approximation to a love ballad, as the rest of the album breaks away for fast-paced proto-punk anthems about food fights and killin’ bitches.
“Super Soaked” is a solid integration of the two prevailing aspects of Be Your Own Pet’s musical formula. As with the ass-kicking album opener, the cut is a havoc-wrecking anthem to teenage debauchery and drug-fueled mayhem. Quick paced guitar strings highlight Abegg’s sexy growl, as she announces “Just 19 when I lost all my dignity! / Today’s my birthday, now I’m 20! / Don’t wanna have responsibility! / Don’t wanna be a part of society!” Despite this borderline nihilistic outlook, the track is fairly accessible and quickly propels the listener into Be Your Own Pet’s world of wild partying, fast three-chord progressions and pure adrenaline.
The band channels its not-too-distant past with its bare-boned punk cuts (“Bummer Time” and “Food Fight!”), which are based largely on the band’s repeated chanting and simple guitar chords. While these unembellished punk tracks are what propelled the band to early underground fame, Be Your Own Pet matures beyond simple, anger-fueled madness on their latest release. With Get Awkward, the band proves that it has the ability to channel its quirky punk foundations while continuing to mature as a group.
Be Your Own Pet