Take a huge breath before you start listening to the debut full-length from Nashville’s Be Your Own PET, because you won’t get another chance to inhale throughout the breakneck pace of 15 songs in 33 minutes. This album is surely the most exciting, energetic and `in your face’ record you will buy this year (and most other years), and you WILL buy it. If you have any shred of respect for punk rock, you will realize that not only are Be Your Own PET carrying the torch of punk, they’re setting fires all over the goddamn place with it. The foursome, all 18 and under (singer Jemina turns 19 this month), made the world take notice with their volatile single, “Damn Damn Leash,” and has since signed to Thurston Moore’s record label. He also secured them gigs opening up for Sonic Youth on their summer tour. Not too bad for kids who can’t legally drink yet.
From the very start, Be Your Own PET grabs you by the eardrums and doesn’t let go. Various reviews have them compared with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, mostly due to the charisma, magnetism and electricity of the two frontwomen, Karen O and Jemina Pearl. Both wield aggression and playfulness with equal weight, able to whip themselves into a frenzy at the drop of a hi-hat. But in style, BYOP are more like the Ramones, writing songs that average only about two minutes in length each, with first single, “Let’s Get Sandy (Big Problem)” clocking in at 58 seconds! They also seem more like the Ramones in demeanor. They can rock the club with their 15-minute sets, but the links on their webpage show a different side of the band. While the Ramones were into baseball cards and comic books, BYOP really digs bicycles, climbing trees, waffle houses and asthma inhalers (all four are afflicted with asthma).
Jemina doesn’t write all the words, drummer Jamin Orrall and guitarist Jonas Stein help out in that regard, but she can pull off lyrics that say just about anything. In the second track, “Bunk Trunk Skunk,” she fiercely and shamelessly belts out, “I’m an independent mutha-fucker / And I’m here to take your money / I’m wicked rad and I’m here / to steal away your virginity.” In the way too fun song, “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle,” she can’t help but entice you to sing along with “We’re on two wheels, baby!” My favorite lyric from the song is “Have fun and be safe with it / Just kidding, fuck shit up!” But BYOP also proves that they can write incredibly infectious pop as in “Adventure,” one of the standout tracks, which is somewhat difficult to judge considering the entire album is one long standout.
In “Bog,” Jemina begs for Xanax to take her to the moon, and then she and her boyfriend argue about the dog before she drowns him in a bog, rhyme intended, just like in the song. “We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol” is probably the closest thing to the YYY’s on the album, with tightly restrained chaos ready to burst at the seams and Pearl hitting high notes at the end of nearly every line. “Let’s Get Sandy (Big Problem)” features some of the best punk drumming my ears have ever had the pleasure to bleed to. The furious `one hot minute’ track also features some more classic lyrics like “We all have holes in our socks / And Bad Brains totally rocks,” as well as “If you take a twelve year-old and break his arms twice / We can guarantee you that he won’t be very nice.” “October, First Account” is the first track to really slow things up a bit, and I say that comparatively. Along with “Adventure,” this track shows a mature form of songwriting that will guarantee the band some consistent airplay.
There are so many great things about this band I don’t even know where to start. Although I have quoted quite a few of the lyrics, there are so many more noteworthy and witty sets that there’s plenty for the new listener to discover. BYOP manages to incite a state of sheer exhaustion from aural aggression. After only half an hour, I was pleasantly spent, but have gone back for more repeatedly. You know you have a great album on your hands when it’s impossible to pick a favorite track. The entire album plays almost like one long teenage punk opera with stories of sex, death and angst. Plus, it’s the best album with a song about bicycles since Queen’s Jazz. And after years of sub par faux pop posing as punk, Be Your own PET have renewed my faith in the real thing.