Imagine an entire album consisting of hiccuping variations of the Damned’s “New Rose”. Now copy and paste some lyrics that pay tribute to the Dalai Lama and Dolly Parton, while calling for the death of Bob Seger. Add some absurd sadomasochist L.A.P.D. imagery for cover art, and you’ve got a masterpiece of fin de siècle retro-punk goofus nostalgia. Hit After Hit, the long bubbling-under debut album by Seattle snotcore masters the Briefs, will definitely spike your punch and maybe even start a joyous mosh pit in your own living room. Who would have thought there would be hidden genius in a band named after underpants?
Thirteen songs in 24 minutes, and not a dud in the bunch: how many bands can pull that off? The sound is perfect, combining the speed of Damned Damned Damned with the insolence of Kings of the Wild Frontier. Guitarists Daniel J. Travanti and Steve E. Nix plunge headfirst into their skittish riffs, while panicky drummer Chris Brief tries to get to the end of each song as fast as he can. Bassist Lance Romance (the cute one) looks great in a nun’s habit. All four of them trade off vocals, and you will be in punk heaven every time their voices join together for the inevitable shouted refrain (“I got a new case of crabs!”, “Kill Bob Seger right now!”, “Dalai Lama Dolly Parton!”).
The fun begins with their debut seven-inch, “Poor and Weird”, a new classic that leads off the album. An anthem for underdogs, this tune actually makes it seem cool to be weird and poor! “I fell on my head when I was just a little kid”—well, that might be just an excuse. The tune’s so great that it surged to number-one on Berkeley’s KALX, and World Wide Punk called it “the ‘New Rose’ of the 21st century”. Getting weirder by the second, the Briefs fire away with other goofy tunes played strictly for laughs. “Silver Bullet” takes hilarious aim at Bob Seger (c’mon guys, Bob was a guest on one of the MC5 albums!), possibly ensuring that the Briefs will never play Detroit. The fast’n'furious “I’m a Raccoon” (“I got ears / I got claws / I got teeth / I got jaws”) takes a, ah, raccoon’s-eye view of the world. One of the weirdest punk anthems ever put to music is “New Case”, whose joyous refrain goes “I got a new case of crabs”. The epic-at-20-seconds “Dolly Parton” is basically a hooky shout-out to the Dalai Lama.
Well, if you think “Poor and Weird” is all played out, you can turn to “New Shoes” and “Knife” for alternative classics. Remember the day you threw out the Converse All-Stars, and bought a pair of steel-toed Dock Marten’s to wear to the gig? “New Shoes” is all about that day: “I got a new pair o’ shoes / And I’m better than you, awright!” The tune goes on to describe a new pair of socks and the “brand-new walk” that materialized on that magical day. On the other hand, “Knife” is one of those exemplary I’m-afraid-of-my-girlfriend punk tunes that you just don’t hear anymore. “She’s gotta knife to my brain!”, cries the panicky lead singer as his brethren yell encouragement like “put down the knife!” A timeless classic!
OK, so it’s a brilliant album: fast, funny, memorable. You must hear it. The hard-working folks at Dirtnap Records deserve special praise for valiantly filling orders for Briefs music, even while demand rapidly outstripped supply at the micro-label.
But please do not—repeat, Do Not—try to honor the Briefs fatwah calling for the death of Bob Seger. After all, “Rambling Gambling Man” is one of the coolest proto-punk songs ever to come out of Detroit.
// Notes from the Road
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