[BASEMENT POP-PUNK] Most bands struggle with the 7-inch format: Picking a pair of songs that put an act’s best foot forward, while working within the time constraints of the medium, is no easy chore. Unless, that is, you’re the Bugs. The Portland pop-punk outfit is known for its quick wit and quicker songs: There are six of them on new 7-inch Double O-Yeah…and Other Hits, and the band has time to spare.
The Bugs may be Portland’s finest purveyors of smart-ass, nod-along punk—real estate with surprisingly fierce local competition.That’s something the duo proves right off the bat on the 7-inch’s title track, a summer anthem that elicits images of Sauvie Island or the Washougal River: “When the summer time is here/ Then we’ll all get nice and weird/ And head down to the water/ Fathers bring your tattooed daughters/ Oh yeah/ Oh yeah/ Double O-yeah/ Oh yeah.” While the title and chorus remind of the Bugs’ fuzzy 2005 insta-classic, “Fuckin’ A Right,” the new 45 shares the improved fidelity of 2009’s excellent Barbaric! Mystical! Bored! That added clarity is the difference between hearing another nameless catchy punk tune and actually appreciating the stupidly clever lyrics of the sax-fueled paranoia jam, “N.S.A.” or obnoxiously catchy A-side closer “Alcatrazz.”
Then again, Double O-Yeah’s
best song is also its least coherent: The White Stripes-y riffage of
“Lies” comes equipped with Mike Coumatos’ unintelligible, high-pitched
rants—it’s getting harder to tell cartoony vocalists Cuomatos and Paul
Haines apart—about lumpy gravy and the difference between the North and
South. Garage rock doesn’t always need to make sense. That the Bugs can
deliver occasional belly laughs (“Your Sweat is Sweeter Than a
Pharoah’s” features the puzzlingly romantic couplet “I wanna be your
minister of foreign affairs/ But I cannot stand your domestic policies”)
is really icing on the pop-punk cake. Both the band’s members prove
their musical smarts in their other (recently reformed) band, Truman’s
Water—so we know what they’re capable of. But squeezing smarts into a
band this dumb is a feat unto itself.
SEE IT: The Bugs release Double O-Yeah…and Other Hits (limited to 350 copies) on Friday, July 1, at the Kenton Club with Sugar Sugar Sugar and Hey Lover. 9 pm. Cover. 21+.