Sometime in the 1300s, William of Ockham scribbled down his law of parsimony, which went something like, "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." 700 years later, four punks from Laramie, Wyoming are still proving Ockham right.
Teenage Bottlerocket took Occam's razor and slashed a gaping hole in Cleveland's Beachland Tavern on October 18. If anyone in Cleveland had ever forgotten just how dangerous a three-chord song with a catchy chorus could be, Teenage Bottlerocket provided an enlightening aural reminder.
As per tradition in the Beachland Tavern, the group took the stage approximately three years after the doors opened. All that time between sets had allowed a modest crowd to gather, a shocking percentage of which was comprised of the rarely-seen 35-to-55 age demographic. These folks may have been eye-witnesses to the devastating power of the Ramones back in the `70s. If they were hesitant to believe that four clean-cut Midwesterners had picked up the baton the Ramones dropped sometime after they recorded "Pet Semetary," the issue was put to rest after a blazing 40-minute set.
Opener "Bottlerocket" was injected with twice the venom it contains on the band's newest full-length, Warning Device. "Bottlerocket" seamlessly segued into "In the Basement" just as fluidly as it does on the album. The song's goofy lyrics, unshakeable melody, rudimentary guitar lead and gleeful "whoa"s embody the group's spirit and attitude perfectly. Fortunately, songs like the excellent "In the Basement" make up most the band's arsenal. "Gave You My Heart," "She's Not the One," "Pacemaker" and "Social Life" also made the leap from the wax of Warning Device to the stage. Teenage Bottlerocket is one of those bands that blesses the audience with the gift of sounding exactly like they do live as when their disc in the stereo.
Older baubles from 2005's Total were also unleashed and played with the enthusiasm of a caffeinated puppy. "Radio" was perfect for a crowd sing-along. "Stupid Games" saw both singers sling barbs during the chorus. "Lost in Space," "Repeat Offender" and "Blood Bath at Burger King" rounded out the set after the band took a five-minute "coffee break" while the drummer tended to his battered and broken snare.
Bottlerocket's insanely playful performance lay on the opposite side of the spectrum from opening act Ghost Town Trio, which perplexingly featured only two members. Still riding the tsunami of folk-punk revivalism, the duo delicately and preciously meandered through a guitar-and-bass set. The singer's reserved vocals and the fantastically understated basslines were nothing short of enjoyable, but only in a passive, should-be-sitting-down-for-this way.
Adversely, the erstwhile cock rock of Gunfire! Get Down! encouraged me to actually stand up. Until the singer opened his mouth. Good lord, the music was awesome, a perfect throwback to Thin Lizzy or early Iron Maiden, all heavy-as-Rush Limbaugh riffs and crunching rhythms. But the vocals...the vocals sounded somewhere between that high-pitched guy from the Blood Brothers and Doomriders, melody forsaken for garbled, monotone yelping. Even worse were the lyrics, which, when discernible, induced cringing, like when the singer yipped something about "Broken bottles / Broken knuckles / Broken hearts."
Only one question remained after all was said and done: How does Teenage Bottlerocket not have carpal tunnel? Motherfuckers didn't do one upstroke the entire night.