[PUNK ROCK, FUCK YEAH!] The Portland music scene, despite its virtues, often takes itself too seriously. In 2010, it seems like every new band has a fancy MySpace page and a business plan, an open Kickstarter account and an album full of polished songs. Whatever happened to just getting together with your buds in a seedy basement and scrapping out a few tracks?
It only takes one quick spin to realize that garage-punk trio Boom! is bucking the trend. "Unicorns," the first track on the band's self-titled debut record, also happens to be one of the band's longest songs—and it lasts all of 114 seconds. "Unicorns" ends before you know it, and it's the album's clearest statement, led by a fist-pump-worthy riff, unintelligible lyrics and background chants of (what else?) "boom!" These dudes are clearly having fun: Side 2 features both a song about the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson ("Ocho Cinco") and an ode to drugs that's basically just a running list of ways to get high (the uptempo "Pills").
Still, it's hard to dismiss an album that's just so fun to sing along to. These are primal, carefree punk songs that have lots of replay value; when the band gets funky on its best song, "Jim Morrison," I just want to roll around on the ground shouting the chorus: "Let your meat hang low/ And drop to the floor/ Jim Morrison, yeah." Boom! might make you cringe if you listen too closely, but that's not the point: Let's all raise a toast to the stupid punk-rock song. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
The Quick & Easy Boys Red Light Rabbit
[PUB ROCK] It's hard to tell just where the Quick & Easy Boys are coming from. One moment the Portland trio seems to be riding a T. Rex wave ("Black Panther"), and the next it's kicking out a noodling roots jam that nods toward the Grateful Dead and Canned Heat ("Breakin' Love").
At its heart, Red Light Rabbit is a pub rock album: When British bands like Dr. Feelgood rejected the glamour of stadium rock in 1970s Britain, they also cast a wide musical net that embraced a bluesy sort of musicianship and left ample room for improvisation. The Boys are on the same wavelength, but the freespirited, fun aesthetic that flew in the '70s now comes packaged with a healthy dose of self-awareness from both the band and listener: Am I supposed to let this in my heart, or get the joke?
The Boys are either letting the spirit move them (it sure sounds like it on the kinetic title track and the riffy "Sweet Anticipation"), or goofing on convention (the Bee Gees-sounding dance-rock number "Take Your Medicine"). Ween—a band on the Boys' list of influences—kickstarted a musical era in which the sincerest form of flattery is satire so dead-on we don't always know when to start laughing. We do know when to dance, though. Maybe that's all that matters. CASEY JARMAN.