Upon the release of their self-titled debut full-length, Be Your Own Pet visited the Troubadour where I got to see pretty much their entire catalog at the time come to life in a big sweaty frenzy. Up until then, my visual exposure was YouTube videos of songs that usually barely surpassed the one-minute mark. "Let's Get Sandy" and early single "Damn Damn Leash" were burning bursts of punk creativity, youthful activity that asked to be vital in the company of older, serious bands. BYOP's debut capped off an exuberant introduction to a short-attention span band that could keep a listener's attention for a whole album's span.
Now, one album and a new drummer later (if we were concentrated on the band members' ages before, wait 'til you dig that this new kid was born in the `90s), we arrive at Get Awkward, a potentially disastrous title for a sophomore album being fed to critics who may be waiting to finally write the group off. Well, no such luck here. True, you are going to find slightly slicker production, maybe a few songs surpassing the three-minute mark, and more dumb lyrics. But this is not exactly the awkward sophomore transition it could have been. Jemina Pearl sounds as irreverent as ever, claiming she doesn't "want to have responsibility" or "be a part of society." But mixed in with these throwaway teenage angst lyrics come "I wanna be where the boys are, too / I wanna do the things I wanna do." Maybe sexual equality is next on the agenda for Pearl?
Not to be taken too seriously, those bits of potential socially conscious lyrical matter are far outnumbered by casual drug references and pizza party anthems. But if you're along for the ride, it can be musically uproarious as evidenced on their take at new wave, "Heart Throb," where Pearl confesses it's difficult to stay faithful sometimes while delivering an unbelievably catchy chorus over Nathan Vasquez's brilliant bass line.
It seems the group runs out of ideas towards the end of the album as "Zombie Graveyard Party!" sounds like a B-side that has slightly amusing lyrics (one can guess the subject) with even more amusing (zombie-like?) deep backing vocals. The album kind of goes out in the same fashion, fun but forgettable. On their debut, momentum was so abundant that it could have been expanded a few more songs and it would probably have been just as good. Get Awkward rides similar momentum, and maybe that's why the end is so average. To not be able to follow up maybe BYOP's best one-two punch on record yet, "Bummer Time" into "What a Waste," is unfortunate. These two songs are high watermarks in the group's expanding catalog. "Bummer" is about the funnest song you'll hear all year with its absolutely rowdy chorus sung in and out of synch by all the guys. It's one of Jonas Stein's subtly great guitar lines on the record, as well. In the pre-chorus, he leads Pearl's voice with a guitar hook, which were more abundant on BYOP's previous work.
"You're a Waste" follows in their excellent short list of "ballads." Like their debut's "October, First Account" and Summer Sensation EP's "Take That Walk," "Waste" rides more great guitar complements as Pearl waxes heartbroken.
Though those two mid-record gems don't salvage the album as being as great as their debut, it adds to the general firepower BYOP have at their disposal for their live show. It's hard to be so critical of a band that is out there to have fun as aim #1, but losing some of the artistic disregard that made them vital from the outset must be compensated with more than late-album filler.