Teenage Bottlerocket - Freak Out! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Teenage Bottlerocket

Freak Out! (2012)

Fat Wreck Chords

Freak Out! is Teenage Bottlerocket's fifth album and it shows, but in the sense that the familiarity here is a strength instead of a weakness. These four guys from Laramie, Wyo. have been churning out so much musically tight, lyrically quirky pop-punk jams over the past decade that they're essentially getting by on sheer muscle memory, and Freak Out! is another fun chapter from perhaps punk's most fun band.

The album's first half is decidedly more aggressive than that of 2009's wonderful They Came From The Shadows–the anti-concussion cautionary tale "Headbanger" and the hilariously titled "Necrocomicon" all whiz by with speed, while "Cruising for Chicks" (which is about exactly what you think it's about) plods a bit in the verses before hitting the gas in the chorus. The midsection of the record, however, is bigger on pop, with "Maverick" using Top Gun references as allegory for a relationship, and a pair of impressively, painfully catchy mid-tempo songs in "Done with Love" and "Never Gonna Tell You."

The mood briefly cascades back to silliness in the album's backend, with anthems tackling heady topics such as mosh etiquette ("In The Pit") and Kill Bill-style vengeance ("Who Killed Sensei?"), but the variation is a little more defined with "Summertime" and closer "Go With The Flow," two of the best pop songs TBR have ever written.

Other than the somewhat uneven sequencing, the other minor problem with Freak Out! is the inclusion of two thirds of 2011's Mutilate Me EP–the title track and "Punk House of Horror"–in lieu of previously unreleased material. In the age of Spotify, Rdio and iTunes there's no such thing as a "limited edition" release, and while the songs are still great and fit the album's sound like a glove, most listeners who bought Mutilate Me would've likely preferred some new songs in their place.

Even with that said, though, it's hard to stay mad at Teenage Bottlerocket for long. They're able to harvest earnestness from otherwise ridiculous places, where most similar bands fall short. It's a tradition that continues on Freak Out! and will hopefully keep the group going for years to come.