Music

The Muffs: Whoop Dee Doo

Fresh off a short, aborted stint with the Pixies, Kim Shattuck reforms the Muffs and puts out a very solid album.


The Muffs

Whoop Dee Doo

Label: Burger / Cherry Red
US Release Date: 2014-07-29
UK Release Date: 2014-07-21
Amazon
iTunes

At the moment Kim Shattuck is probably best known in the indie rock world as the woman who replaced Kim Deal as the bassist in the reunited Pixies and lasted about six months before getting fired from the band herself. But Shattuck has a long history as the lead singer and songwriter for the Muffs. The Muffs came up in the ‘90s, where Shattuck’s sugary pop hooks and punky attitude nestled right in with the pop-punk explosion. That explosion never really translated into major success for the band, whose only mainstream claim to fame was their cover of "Kids in America" for the soundtrack to the movie Clueless (also later resurrected in the Rock Band 2 video game). Regardless, the band had a fine run of albums in the ‘90s, cresting with ‘97’s excellent Happy Birthday to Me before they petered out after ‘04’s Really Really Happy.

So, fresh off that short stint with the Pixies, Shattuck has reformed the Muffs with the classic lineup intact for their first album in a decade. Shattuck handles vocals and guitar with Ronnie Barnett on bass and Roy McDonald on drums. And Whoop Dee Doo sounds pretty much like every other Muffs album. Shattuck’s ear for pop hooks is as reliable as ever, while her nasally whine of a voice remains very much an acquired taste. Longtime Muffs fans will likely still find her singing goofily charming, and anyone who managed to enjoy ‘90s punk singers such as Tom DeLonge from Blink-182, Fat Mike from NOFX, and (most egregiously) Joey Cape from Lagwagon, will probably be able to get behind her singing voice without much trouble. Others may have more difficulty.

The album opens with a pair of songs that pretty much sum up the Muffs focus on annoyed aggression and unrequited love. "Weird Boy Next Door" is all about how much of violent moron the neighbor kid is, summed up by the lines "Yeah, he’s like a caveman / But he’s not as clever / In fact he’s dumber / Than a common rat," and punctuated by Shattuck’s howls. "Paint By Numbers" is a slightly slower song, with a prettier melody, which is appropriate for the lyrics about how Shattuck is so in love with a boy she sees every day but never actually speaks to. And while there are some cute "Woo-hoo-hoo"s here, Shattuck lets loose with just as many between-lyrics howls as in the previous song.

That’s pretty much how it goes for the 12 songs on the album, with some minor musical variations and a couple of real songwriting gems where the hooks are particularly sharp. "Take a Take a Me" has a noticeably swinging, danceable feel, courtesy of Barnett and McDonald’s spacious rhythms that stay locked into a ‘60s pop feel without ever going into driving, punkier beats. The addition of a subtle Farfisa organ in the background nicely adds to that ‘60s feel. "Cheezy" sounds like a traditional Muffs song in almost every way, except for the harmonica that gives the whole track a slightly different tone. “I Get It” qualifies as a major departure for the band because it’s a genuine duet with Barnett sharing vocal duties.

First single "Up and Down Around" is a mid-tempo song in 6/8 time with a strong chorus and some well-placed backing vocals with completely appropriate "Ahh"s and "Do do do do"s. It’s the longest song on the album at a whopping four minutes flat, which leaves time for a very effective quiet bridge, as well as a handful of great drum fills from McDonald and a nice extended guitar solo from Shattuck. The equally excellent "Like You Don’t See Me" is like a full-on classic Muffs track, with a chorus that strains Shattuck’s vocal range in the best way and a subdued post-chorus that immediately gives the song a completely different feel.

It’s nice to hear Shattuck leaving her Pixies experience behind and getting back to her specialty. The Muffs sound like they’re having a lot of fun here, and the album is full of energy. It’s hard to imagine that Whoop Dee Doo will draw a fresh audience to the band, but fans of The Muffs should be pleasantly surprised at how solid this album is.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image