Screeching Weasel - First World Manifesto (Cover Artwork)

Screeching Weasel

First World Manifesto (2011)

Fat Wreck Chords

Welcome to Screeching Weasel Version 4.9.

I have been a fan of this band in its varying shapes and forms for going on 20 years. There's been some really high points for me: 1991's My Brain Hurts and 1993's Anthem for a New Tomorrow are what I would consider their best. Snotty at times, introspective at others, and then bratty as a surly pre-teen when the mood strikes. All of these things are what have made me a fan of the band for this long. Have there been low points? Sure, there have: 1998's Television City Dream did nothing for me and 2000's Teen Punks in Heat wasn't really any better.

Onto the newest record: It's very catchy–it's as punchy, addictive and sugary as 1996's Bark Like a Dog. While not my favorite record they have released, it is certainly well-played and -put together. I do hesitate to say that my favorite song on the record is the second track, "Frankengirl", if only because it has guest vocals by Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience, and it makes me long to have another MTX record. I'm not going to go through every track as there are many by-the-numbers Screeching Weasel songs, a couple that seem like Riverdales B-sides and some others that sound like leftovers from Ben Weasel's 2007 solo album, These Ones Are Bitter.

What I do want to focus on is what knocks this record down multiple levels and stops a lot of the replay value. It's the bookends of the record–what would be two of the "best" songs on the record would be so much better if it weren't for their lyrical content: "Follow Your Leaders" and "Little Big Man". Here you have two songs that are essentially an adult pushing 50 years of age engaging in petty squabbles and the sonic equivalent of an internet fistfight. I don't understand the need to write the two songs; it isn't because I'm associated with any of the people that he's slinging mud at so much as that I don't want to listen to the mud-slinging. "Follow Your Leaders" takes aim at various punk rock attitudes and patrons of musical gatherings like The Fest and Punk Rock Bowling that apparently bother Mr. Weasel so much that he feels the need to write songs about them. Knowing that Mr. Weasel hasn't taken part in either of these events but has no problem starting his own or even attending others really makes it seem even more shallow. "Little Big Man" is written about an unnamed individual involved in the punk rock world that apparently has Mr. Weasel foaming at the mouth and seething enough to put lyrics (that sound like they were written at three in the morning after fuming over some personal squabble) to song. The only word that comes to mind after hearing this song–which also closes the album–is "embarrassing."

It's a good record, but would be so much more and get a better score from me without the drama.