The most striking difference between this one and Volume 1 to me is that the first volume seems to have more bands that went on to relative stardom (in the pop punk world, anyway) that volumes 2 and beyond didn’t. NOFX, Mr. T Experience, J Church, The Parasites, and arguably Bracket are all pretty well household names in any home where pop punk was on a turntable or in a CD player prior to 1998. Yes, fame has as much to do with luck as it does with hard work and talent, but the fact that so many bands who are huge names in the genre now appeared on a compilation 20 years ago speaks to Mel’s ability to pick the good stuff out of the gate.
But enough about the first one. This are Volume 2.
Despite what I said about most of the bands here remaining to this day relatively obscure, there’s still some killer stuff here. Remember, I also said Mel’s got chops. Cub had a few full lengths and . Plow turned into Plow United and put out three full lengths in the 90’s, took a break until 2011, and put out a great new record in 2012 and might be the exception to the “remained relatively obscure” rule I laid out above. And good for them. Beatnik Termites have been steadily churning out their sugary Ramonescore since before Ramonescore was even a dumb word. Other than that, most of the bands here aren’t that familiar to me. Maybe I skipped over someone I shouldn’t have. Let me know if you think that’s the case.
So, let’s get into Volume 2.
1. Cub – “Your Bed”: Imagine the perfect mix of indie rock and pop punk that was self-identified as “cuddlecore”, and you get Cub. I can’t think of a better way to describe their sound than this.
2. The Fondled – “Never Be Your Girl”: This makes two songs from as many Shreds Volumes to be covered by The Grumpies. I’m sensing a theme here. Simple, stripped down poppy punk. Female singer if that sort of thing matters to you.
3. Sluts For Hire – “We’re In A Band”: Singing songs about singing songs is a tricky thing. They can either be clever (Please Play This Song On the Radio comes to mind) or just so self-referential and lacking any further commentary as to be kind of worthless in a “What we talk about when we talk about what we’re talking about” sort of way. Luckily for them and for us, Sluts For Hire are kind of catchy.
4. Plow – “Timmy Is An Arsonist”: The B-side to the Dance 7″, I dare say it’s the superior song. But don’t quote me on that. I may feel different tomorrow. Also, the 7″ this is from might be the loudest one I own. Oh yeah, also this band is now called Plow United (so I tagged the song this way for you.) and they put out a new record in 2012 called Marching Band. Looks like the vinyl is sold out as of this writing by I’m sure there will be more. You should get it immediately.
5. The Beatnik Termites – “9:15”: Bubblegum punk at it’s finest.
6. Bubble Boy – “Plastic Earwax”: Another one of those songs that would have been equally at home on an early Polyvinyl or middle-to-later era Lookout 7″.
7. The Tinsels – “Pelican Bay”: Kind of noisy indie rock. Can’t win’em all, I suppose.
8. Atomic Boy – “Time Bomb”: Reminds me of Sugar a little. Or maybe a lot. Someone really needs to make me a mix of songs called “Time Bomb”.
9. Mark Brodie & The Beaver Patrol – “Suicide Ride”: Remember when surf music was a thing, following that weird swing revival thing that happened? These kids were doing it before it was cool and they seemed to really nail it without being derivative.
10. Loose Change – “17”: A few clicks quality wise above pretty standard fast Southern California skatepunky pop punk. I like this but I think the band later went on to lose those few clicks…
11. Red Number 9 – “Indifferent”: I swear I’ve got this song on 12 different compilations. This bassline is forever etched into my brain. Catchy bay area(San Jose?) 90’s pop punk with a female vocalist and catchier basslines.
12. Coloring Book – “Time To Grow”: I don’t know what this kind of music is called. Twee pop? Fuzzless shoegaze? Just plain old pop? Not bad, not great. Have skipped this one before. Will probably skip this one again.
13. Incredible Force Of Junior – “The Greatest Thing”: Don’t worry, the awkward spoken word intro doesn’t last long. Another genre bending offering that’s almost like the bridge in a late model Against Me! song with poetry being read over it. When she switches from the spoken-y stuff into the singing, it’s pretty great. The chorus is catchy as hell and is the sugar to the unsteady awkward poetry stuff’s lemon. Totally makes up for it and balances the song out.
14. Wooly Mammoth – “Dog Park”: I like the song, but the guitar tone bugs me for some reason. Also wish it were a little faster. Mid-tempo pop punk. Not horrible, not great. I would probably buy a record from these guys if I came across it.
15. Blah – “Not My Friend”: This reminds me alot of my friend Rob’s band, Willis, who I’m guessing even fewer people have heard than have heard Blah, so that’s not really helpful for you. Would probably benefit from better production, but I find the lack of production value often adds some charm that gets lost with more/better. Whatever. Is anyone even still reading this? No. Just download the thing and listen.
16. The Phuzz – “Pop Song”: I wish I had gotten to see The Phuzz when they were around and touring. Kinda spastic catchy pop punk like a less grimy Pink Lincolns or maybe a WAY popped out and kind of sloppy Circle Jerks. It’s there, I’m telling you. I’ll have the entire 7″ this song is from up in a few days by request. They also had a split and toured with The Chubbies. I don’t have that split but if someone wants to send me one I won’t complain.
17. Cavity – “You Don’t Own Me”: Female fronted pop punk with an edge from Colorado. Covering here a Lesley Gore feminist anthem. I’m still on the lookout for their other 7″, with their band name/logo that looks like the Crest toothepaste logo. It rips and RIP Cavity.
18. Tugboat Annie – “Jack Knife”: Thoughts that go through my head every time I listen to this: 1. Oh, sweet. Dirt Bike Annie. 2. Wait, this isn’t Dirt Bike Annie. 3. This is that other band whose name sounds like Dirt Bike Annie. 4. This is too much indie grunge-i-ness for me. 5. I need to remember the next time I put this on that this isn’t Dirt Bike Annie. 6. Where’s my Dirt Bike Annie CD?
19. Neighborhood Dilemma – “Get Away Sometime”: Reminds me a lot of a slowed down, less frenetic Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Pop punk on horse tranquilizers? I’m pretty horrible with drug references.
20. Broken Toys – “Prozac Baby”: This is one of those bands whose name is familiar and they’ve been putting out records since 87. When these two things overlap, they don’t usually work well together. In this case the result is just within the circle labeled “generic but decent pop punk” on the massive Venn Diagram Of All Things Punk Rock I have scrawled on my attic floor and have been working on for decades.