[20 March 2008]
Two years after the release of its spunky full-length debut, Jemina Pearl and a slightly reshuffled Be Your Own Pet are back and all grown up—ok, no, not really. But, instead of songs celebrating the simple things in life—two-wheelers, adventuring, and getting high—sophomore release, Get Awkward, finds the band indulging in more refined interests like cult cinema, zombies, and, well, still getting high. The album’s sound is still a sonic kick to the balls with shredding guitars and breakneck tempos to match Pearl’s defiant shriek. By riding high on punchy impulses, Get Awkward ends up being a solid follow-up even if it doesn’t sound as instantly re-playable as the band’s charismatic first LP.
Instead of getting caught up in sophomore album nervousness that ultimately leads all bands to experiment with synths, Be Your Own Pet thankfully sticks to its guns, which leaves Get Awkward sounding a ton like its predecessor. The band, once again, rips through 15 tracks in a blistering and exhausting half hour. Album opener “Super Soaked” begins as a battle cry for the sanctity of youth-hood pleasures until turning into a warning aimed at the adult world with Pearl yelping, “Next year I’ll be 21 so look out world cause I wanna have fun.”
The album’s first single, “The Kelly Affair”, is a vicarious account of 1970s Hollywood that sounds pretty much exactly like Hollywood now. You have to give the Pets credit here. Most people watch Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and think how awesome and slightly perverted Roger Ebert was back in the 70s, but BYOP responds by writing an extremely catchy punk hit.
However midway through the album, songs begin to grow slightly indistinguishable. Tracks like “Heart Throb” and “Bitches Leave” are bursting from the seams with attitude, but seem ultimately lost without additional direction. When the band does opt to switch gears, like on the teenage heartbreak number “You’re a Waste”, the change of direction ends up backfiring. Pearl’s usually textured vocals sound constrained by the formulaic approach and her snarky one-liners are replaced with an all-too-standard “you did me wrong” diatribe. From a strictly realistic point of view, there is no way that Pearl would be so tender-hearted and diplomatic in this kind of scenario.
In many ways, this album is a more mature product than its precursor. The production is cleaner while keeping the drum kits and skuzzy guitars to a maximum. Pearl sounds more calculating and commanding than ever even while dishing out childish burns like, “Some people say that I’m disgusting / I don’t care / I just think they’re lame.” But in the end, the album lacks the same youthful magnetism and genuine hooks of the first record. Songs like “Wildcat!” and “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” still sound refreshingly jubilant and awesome. It’s hard to tell if the same will be said of Get Awkward two years down the road. Nonetheless, it’s reassuring to know that Be Your Own Pet is just as rambunctious and raw as it’s ever been and that these past two years have not softened the band up too much. Otherwise, that would be pretty lame.