Teenage Bottlerocket @ Surfside 7By | April 20th, 2008 | No Comments »
Teenage Bottlerocket loves The Ramones even more than singer/guitarist Ray Carlisle loves this microphone. Words and photos by Matt Schild.
There’s a certain elegance to the throwaway simplicity of a back-to-basics punk show that has to be admired. Teenage Bottlerocket’s Thursday stop in Fort Collins had all the hallmarks of trashy punk elegance.
The band set up directly on the floor at Surfside 7, not on a stage with the crowd literally inches away from it at times; house sound was used only for vocals, so fans got that punchy, straight-from-the-amps mix untouched by a soundman; the tiny joint was so crowded with denim- and hoodie-clad punks and various bar furniture you either had to be in the front row, standing precariously on a booth’s bench seat or 6’7″ to get any sort of view of the band. Plus, cans of schwag beer were only a buck at the bar. The only thing left was a band able to tear the roof off the club.
On its final tour stop on the way home to Laramie, Wyo., Teenage Bottlerocket was that band. The act, whose three biggest influences are The Ramones, The Ramones and The Ramones, doesn’t have its heart set on rocking its way into the pop charts or the history books. It’s just there as a celebration of all the frivolous, noisy and gleeful elements of punk traditions. Call it trash culture at its finest or at its worst, probably both.
Rifling through a set of Ramones-rock, the foursome made good on the three-chord formulas, delivering stupidly catchy songs about even more stupid topics: “Social Life” was a lovelorn ode of devotion to from a shut-in loser, and “Totally Stupid,” tackled the big issues of acting like a spazz while you’re in the midst of a serious love buzz.
For all the buzzsaw guitars, double-time drum work and mindless lyrics, though, Teenage Bottlerocket, which drew heavily from its latest, this year’s “Warning Device,” for its set, was more than just punks waging war in the name of hearing loss and good times. Wearing that Phil Spector by way of Joey Ramone pop sensibility proudly on the sleeve of its leather motorcycle jackets, Teenage Bottlerocket bolstered its manic energy and oftentimes formulaic songwriting with a command of what it takes to make a pop tune tick.
“Gave You My Heart,” the set’s highlight, caught singer/guitarists Kody Templeman and Ray Carlisle trading harmonies that took some of the kick out of the act’s pop-punk noise, and “Welcome to the Nuthouse” became little more than a resurrection of The Ramones’ love for going mental with Templeman’s ability to throw in a sing-along vocal into the mix. And a cover of a Green Day nugget off “Dookie” was all the band needed to prove it wasn’t afraid to let it’s pop-punk flag fly, even at the risk of alienating the Fort’s legion of denim-clad trash-rockers (it didn’t).
For better or worse, pop-punk’s come a long way since it shot noisly out of The Ramones’ guitars. And while we’ll never, ever really be able to return to those halcyon days, at least there are acts like Teenage Bottlerocket making the sounds — and, just as importantly, playing the do-it-yourself shows — to keep a sliver of those traditions alive and kicking.
Reverb contributor Matt Schild edits Aversion.com.