Be Your Own Pet : Mommy

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Be Your Own Pet Mommy review

It is said that the candle that burns twice as brightly lasts half as long, and for four short years between 2004 and 2008, Be Your Own Pet were burning with a truly stellar intensity. Their self-titled 2006 debut is—simply put—one of the greatest punk albums ever written, a blistering half-hour of filthy, fuzzy chaos that mirrored the frenetic disorder of the band’s lives offstage, dominated by constant touring and relentless partying. Shortly after, in 2008, the band—whose members were all still teenagers at the time of their debut release—announced their break up, citing burnout as well as the reams of misogyny directed toward vocalist Jemina Pearl.

Fifteen years later, and Be Your Own Pet make a triumphant return. But Pearl is double the age she was at the time of her first record, and things seem to have changed a bit. “I can’t be that way no more, I’ve got two kids and a mortgage. What the fuck?” she cries on the second track, “Goodtime!” This the first appearance of a theme that recurs throughout the rest of the album; can Be Your Own Pet—a band whose image was defined by boundless energy and reckless abandon—remain, well, Be Your Own Pet, without trying to be something they’re not? Much of the record is focused on exploring this conflict between the Then and the Now, with even the album name—Mommy—being a kind of play on words. After all, these days, Pearl is, literally, a mother, a grown-up adult shouldering grown-up responsibilities. But, given the not-so-PG subject matter of opening track “Worship the Whip,” and Pearl’s sartorial choices for the album cover, it’s clear that Mommy can also be interpreted in a rather different way—which alludes to that decadent party lifestyle, and that might provide quite some vindication for a certain Dr. Freud (not to mention a whole host of horny TikTokers).

So, yes, there is a substantial serving of classically wild Be Your Own Pet on this record—“Pleasure Seeker,” for example, with its monstrously cool riff that crashes down throughout, or “Hand Grenade,” where a firm, tense, terrifying beat accompanies Pearl’s powerful retaliation against the sexism that marred the first portion of her career. But it’s also true that the frenzied teenage mania that used to drive these tunes has largely mellowed out into a more relaxed, controlled, suave sound that gives the impression of a band who have taken a moment (indeed, a decade-and-a-half-long moment) to pause for breath. The melancholic yet headstrong “Drive” exemplifies this style, with its smooth, meandering bassline and enchantingly mournful chorus creating a song that feels deeply evocative, but also grounded and perfectly self-assured.

While there are plenty of standout riffs and hooks across Mommy, it’s not wholly consistent, and the end product is an album whose themes and backstory are ultimately more compelling than any one individual track. Which would fit a nice, neat narrative if the band wrote a record about how reformed adult life is so much more fulfilling than a youth spent partying hard. It also wouldn’t have been as interesting, or, indeed, true; “don’t wanna be the same person each day,” Pearl sings on “Drive,” and the listener is left to ponder whether stability really is all it’s cracked up to be. The benefit of a retrospective viewpoint, though, is that you can pick out and celebrate the good bits while launching a fearsome attack on those more negative aspects, which Be Your Own Pet do to incredible effect with tracks like “Never Again” and the aforementioned “Hand Grenade.” Mommy, then, takes a mature look at both the past and the present, and delivers a series of complex emotional portraits with a cunning mixture of sincerity and style.

Label: Third Man

Year: 2023

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