Once when asked about AC/DC’s lack of musical diversity, Angus Young responded, “I’m sick and tired of people saying that we put out eleven albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we’ve put out twelve albums that sound exactly the same.” Teenage Bottlerocket’s newest album Stay Rad instantly made me think of this quote. If you have liked ANY of Teenage Bottlerocket’s previous seven studio albums, you will without a doubt like this one. These guys are the same three-chord-loving scamps who are prone to a cleverly juvenile lyric or two, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Considering the tragic death of their former drummer Brandon Carlisle four years ago, there is something insanely inspiring in this. You too can overcome dark times, continue to be your hilarious self, and not change for anything or anybody.
Say what you want about the band’s lack of musical growth; there certainly seems to be more of an emotional growth going on. Don’t worry, this isn’t like when Blink-182 went “serious” and never fully recovered. Lead singer Ray Carlisle is still very much a big kid at heart, despite now having a kid himself. On “I Wanna Be a Dog,” he longs to be the ultimate canine by licking his testicles all day and getting frisky with his girlfriend’s leg. There’s also my pick for best song on the album, “Night of the Knuckleheads,” where he addresses being old and out of it, but going out and getting wasted anyway with his equally stubborn friends. You might think of this as pathetic (especially if you lack any sense of humour and suffer from stick-up-the-ass disease). But if you’re like me, you’ll love and admire their misplaced defiance.
Like I said, though, there is maturity to be found here. Carlisle has always excelled at mixing silliness with sentimentality, but on two of the tracks he outdoes himself. On “Everything to Me” he’s practically giddy at the idea of introducing his kid to Minor Threat, Talking Heads and The Methadones, but it’s “Little Kid” that might really get you in the feels. As much as he’s enjoying raising his own child, he mourns the loss of his own childhood that came with the death of his brother Brandon Carlisle. The instrumentation is as chipper as ever, but dig deeper and you’ll find staggering emotional depth, especially when he sings, “I never thought I would spend three years without you.” The fast tempo and buzzsaw guitars courtesy of Carlisle and Kody Templeman help give the listener the unwanted feeling that life moves on quickly, whether you like it or not.
If you are obsessed with pop-punk then you will definitely like Stay Rad! Its repetitiveness is very much a double-edged sword, though. I for one found myself increasingly desensitized to the arrangements and melodies of the songs, which is frustrating considering how funny, thoughtful, and sometimes emotional the lyrics are. Then again, isn’t that true of most punk? Still, I think this lack of range was a slight detriment to the more fleshed-out subject matter and didn’t properly capture the mood that the words needed. This isn’t a criticism, and none of this will bother fans of the band. If you bought it expecting the same old, same old, then you will most certainly be pleased. Stay Rad! may sound exactly the same as every other Teenage Bottlerocket album, but then again, no other artist sounds exactly like them. So I say, keep on rocking boys. I salute you!
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson