It's hard to wax nostalgic about a band that is really not that old. Talking about the early-90's as a source of nostalgia makes Screeching Weasel seem very old and the writer seem very young, but discussing reissues somehow requires that you start talking in that Ken Burns sort of voice in front of a backdrop of sepia-tinted photos. In the end, what matters is not how recently they existed, but just that they were a great band and they deserve to be remembered fondly. This selection of reissues from Asian Man seems like the ideal way to start.
After all, the equation that led to Screeching Weasel was remarkably simple and “classic” in terms of its inspirations; Ramones-esque melodic punk, whether played slow or breakneck fast, combined with irrepressibly snotty vocals and topped off with alternately silly and astute lyrics. But what made the band so great was both the larger than life image that Weasel commanded, topped off with genuinely strong songwriting. The band released a handful of releases before really starting to really find itself with Boogadaboogadaboogada. It's just about as harsh and pissed off as anyone without X's on their hand can muster, but thankfully tempered with an endlessly bemused outlook.
Boogada bashes through twenty-six tracks in just under forty-two minutes, with the band certainly devoting as much energy to its Southern Californian skate punk sound as to anything else, but this simple record, with its barrage of memorable tracks like “I Hate Led Zeppelin, ” “Stupid Over You, ” “Ashtray” and “Hey Suburbia,” is certainly impressive and left a sea of imitators in its wake. It's not the absolute best in the band's discography but of their many records, it stands as one of their strongest, and a worthy introduction particularly when coupled with the record that followed it.
The band really came into itself, however, with that next record and Lookout! debut, which is almost certainly the best disc in the band's catalogue: My Brain Hurts. The band decreased the tempo slightly, but the result was a record of almost unequivocal quality. From the opening snotty salvo of “Making You Cry” to the pop-punk bliss of “Guest List,” My Brain Hurts doesn't let up throughout its short playtime and fourteen tracks. Equally impressive was the growing sense of nuance, and even empathy from the band. “Cindy's On Methadone” comes across as a rousing defence of a friend kicking a heroin habit, while “Science Of Myth” takes a pragmatic look - and Greg Graffin's thesaurus - to religion. Of course, the almost but not quite earnest cover of “I Can See Clearly” is actually quite listen-able beyond its original humour value. Even “Veronica Hates Me” comes across as possessed of a genuine sense of melancholy.
Of course, these are reissues, so all you cool kids who own everything they've ever released - including that cover album of the entirety of Ramones - are probably wondering if these are worth buying again. Well, these two albums in particular were plagued by the muddy production and mastering of the time, and the new masters courtesy of Mass Giorgini really sparkle. Every note is clear, and you can hear every speck of dirt and every ounce of phlegm. On top of that, the packaging, while not dramatically different, does include commentary from members of the band and from Joe Queer, as well as the standard assortment of fliers and photographs. The sound though, particularly on these early albums, is dramatically improved.
Overall, if you don't own these, they should definitely be on your short list of records to check out, and if you already do, I'd say it's worth it at least to grab the remastered versions of your favourites.