From the mean â??burbs of Cincinnati, the quartet of Team Stray is a pop-punk band that enjoys self-deprecation and I in turn enjoy that. Taken from their MySpace site: "Let us be your new â??they're OK, I guess' band;" "Lazy-fi novelty pop never sounded so ho-hum;" and then begin their influence section as "too embarrassingly obvious to list." They don't take themselves too seriously, and their not-caring and sense of fun shine through in their songs.
Yeah, they sound like the never-ending stream of Ramones-loving bands, taking more directly from what I'm guessing was their teenage-year music: Screeching Weasel, the Queers, Nerf Herder and the like. It's just fun, poppy, punky, and silly music. Lyrical themes include the usual, from making out and more ("Pettin' Heavy"), drinking and partying ("Pink Streamers", "Dui"), troubled relationships ("Problems with You") and compassion towards homosexuals ("Walter & Perry"). You know, the same regular topics of Screeching Weasel.
For a self-released debut, Team Stray do things right. The production serves them well, making them beefy enough to get the job done but no studio tricks, just solid musicianship. The vocals have just a hint of that pop-punk snot, but in a not-annoying way, and the melodies are infectious and instantly singable (especially the Misfits-style â??woah's in "Outta My League"). The guitars plow through things most of the time, and offer some catchy solos usually based off the vocal melody (works for "Edgewise"). The drums are more than capable for the genre, and do a little showing off if you pay attention (the ride work throughout the album and the freak-out at the end of "Sixteen Candles"). The band sticks to their forefather's templates but vary things enough to keep the record from getting stale. Though most of the tempos are brisk, they cover quite a bit of ground from the warp-speed "Makeup" where double-time beats make an appearance to the ballad-ish "Pink Streamers" and "Two for One." Team Stray stick to the basics in form and style and don't waste time on acoustic numbers -- it's distortion through and through. With 16 songs clocking in at 25 minutes, Popular Mechanics is all rock, no filler.
Despite of all the obvious band comparisons, complaints of immaturity or â??heard-it-before' quips I could make, I actually enjoyed this album a lot. Even though it's well-worn territory, it is a breath of fresh air from the norm these days -- bands that take themselves too seriously and don't just have a good time. Why have a mope-fest or hurt your throat screaming when you could have Team Stray?