11-01-12

I have no home.

Hello there. Say, my fair chap, dost thou have gotten acquaintance of this particular record they calleth "Can't Go Home" by a musical ensemble under the name of the "Varsity Weirdos"?

Well, if you have, you deserve a feather (dutchism!). If you haven't, please read along and consider making the right choice.
The right choice is to listen to it.


The Varsity Weirdos are not an active band anymore, I think. I'm not sure. There's little information on the webs and I haven't heard about them for a while. Anyway, they're Canadian, some members are also in Fear Of Lipstick and they've put records out on It's Alive Records. 2 EPs, a split and a full length. Today I wanna talk about their full length, Can't Go Home.

These weirdos are as Ramones-influenced as it gets. In a world of modern pop punk bands doing all sorts of innovative stuff, they've gone back to the roots, the 1970s-'80s, when punk was catchy but deliberate. There's nothing cheesy about the Varsity Weirdos. They're full of style and know their ways around writing a good pop (punk) song.

It's Alive Records, 2010

1) Cut Throat
2) Can't Go Home
3) Look At The Stars
4) L.S.F.E.S.
5) I Hate The Phone
6) End World
7) F.B.I.
8) Disconnected
9) Why I Didn't Like August '93 (Elevator To Hell)
10) October
11) Hammer
12) You Bother Me


Can't Go Home starts off fairly nice and quiet with some rung chords. The words "I wanna cut my throath and die" accompany this introduction and will set the tone for the rest of the album. You know how most pop punk bands are all feel-good and positive? Well, The Weirdos are the opposite. Can't Go Home is an album with musical content you can dance to and be happy, and you can even sing along and be happy. Until you get further into it and you read the lyrics. They're not deep and moving but they're definitely straight and harsh. Like, you can sing along to "I need you..." in Look At The Stars and be all "yeah, this is so cool" and then realise he concludes with "...to leave" and then you're all "oh, wow, never thought of it that way". The lyrical themes are about as hardcore as they get in pop punk, but they're camouflaged by that lovely light-hearted pop sensibility so you don't even know what you're dealing with. The rhymes are silly or simple absent and even pretty bad sometimes, but the message is clear and once it gets to you, you get an entirely different perspective on this album. I know I did. It's about coping, finding your place and trying to get your head straight. I mean, "I hope our love lasts just as long as our life and all the stuff in space, yeah." sounds rather goofy. Well, it isn't, and that's the point.
So, basically, initially I listened to this record and I liked the music, the catchy melodies, the chords, the song structures, the drums, the singalong chants (C-O-M-M-UNICATION, I'M WANTED BY THE FBI), the vocal melodies, the changes of pace. Superficial stuff. And the superficial stuff is great, But then it got spun more and more and I noticed all these things that make it a better record than another record. Simple drum patterns but with added punch and some fitting fills and focused on the right moments. No overacting on this record. It's all kept basic, and therefore charming. They used those - frankly - simple, classic, overused chord progressions and just lifted them to their own standard. They're digestible and played like they should be played: downstroked and steady but with enough strumming variation to keep it interesting for an entire record. They're not original but that's not their intention. I'm guessing their intention was to make songs that sounded like the Ramones and in the end they were better than other bands that do that so they got to release records. I'm glad they did. It's Alive is a record label where you can probably blindly purchase a record and be impressed. All good stuff, and Can't Go Home is no exception.
Some people might be put off by the vocals itself, which is usually a pretty important issue in a band. If you can't stand the vocals, chances are you're not gonna listen to the band. But please don't let this discourage you. They're not that out-of-the-ordinary anyway. I have no idea who does the main singing cause all members are credited as doing vocals. However, Corey and Eric are credited as "vocals + guitar/bass" respectively and Derek and Cam are "guitar/drums + vocals" respectively, so I guess Corey and Eric are lead singers and Derek and Cam do backings! Seems like a fair conclusion. Anyway, one guy has a pretty sharp, retained, extremely nasal, slightly high-pitched voice which serves the fast songs very good (cfr. F.B.I.). The other guy has a broader, mellower, more familiar voice which fits the "slower" songs well (cfr. Hammer). They come together really nicely in their cover of Elevator To Hell's Why I Didn't Like August '93. Good cover, nice take on it and it fits the album quite well.
Now, I've talked about the lyrics, which are far better than they look at first sight, and as usual this is accomplished by the way in which they are sung. Expression is key in music, definitely when singing. This one of the reasons why Can't Go Home ends so strong. The last song is called You Bother Me and it's one of the few pop punk songs that can give me shivers over and over. The subject matter is fairly simple: things are not working out with some girl. Typical, almost stereotypical, but it's written in a very down-to-earth way. What you see is what you get, and I like that with this band. There are few bands who can pull off such actually blatently banal lyrics (remember the Ramones?), but the Weirdos do it. Just listen to him singing/shouting "Things could not be worse" like it's the most normal thing in the world, it's even followed by a "whoa oh oh". It's alienating, the way he sings it. It draws you. And then the records gives it's last spins to the repeated lyric "Maybe we should not be together" which, in my opinion, may be repeated over and over again. Unfortunately it ends with a final rung chord and a final exclamation of desolation.

So basically with Can't Go Home, the Varsity Weirdos haven't written an original record, nor an interesting one, not outstanding and not even remarkable. But it's an honest album, it's catchy as hell (literally, "as hell") and its simplicity is key to its succes. Actually, make that "its simplicity should be key to its succes", cause I feel like this band does not get the recognition they deserve.

Also be sure to check out the Fly Me Up To The Moon EP and the High School Teen Party EP, both equally solid.

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