The Queers - Punk Rock Confidential (Cover Artwork)

The Queers

Punk Rock Confidential (1998)

Hopeless Records

The Queers have gone through a lot of lineup changes, but early on, Joe Queer, bassist B-Face and drummer Hugh O'Neill were firmly established as the band's core members. Together, they formed a tight, cohesive unit and perfected its sound. When O'Neill left the band over brain cancer and B-Face joined the Groovie Ghoulies in 1998, Joe Queer was joined by members of Jon Cougar Concentration Camp and Geoff Useless (later of the Guts and the Nobodys) for the album Punk Rock Confidential. It opens with "Tamara is a Punk," a song in which Queer prepares for the next stage of his career by first looking back fondly on past achievements and friendships with other musicians. He's clearly proud of these things, even if they don't impress a certain girl. Queer's eagerness to press on with new cohorts comes across in "Everything's O.K.," as he sings, "I'm still around with some different clowns."

Queer also gets help from friends like Lisa Marr of Cub and Ben Weasel, and all this collaboration seemingly inspires him to try new things. As befits an album with retro-looking sci-fi girls on its front, some songs have a vaguely psychedelic vibe, especially covers of "Pretty Flamingo" and "I Enjoy Being a Boy." The album's biggest surprises are the beautifully lush, mid-tempo ballads "The Sun Always Shines Around You" and "Don't Mess It Up," which are touchingly wistful and may conjure up visions of sunlit flower fields. They should resonate with anyone who has ever fallen in love and then got dumped, or wanted to be with a girl and worried about not being good enough for her.

Queers albums tend to feel a little schizophrenic, and Punk Rock Confidential is no exception. Sweeter songs are often followed by aggressive and profane ones. The abrasive, shuffling "Rancid Motherfucker" stomps in immediately after the album's most tender and lovesick track, shifting the tone from sentimental to snotty as it attacks a Rancid fan for being an asshole poseur. Not all the songs fall into the categories of sincere love song or rude, but funny hate song. The anthemic "Like a Parasite," for example, has elements of both. It's foul-mouthed and graphic, but also definitely a song for a lover, with its amusingly gross descriptions of "romantic" intentions. Fans of Screeching Weasel may remember that band's earlier version of the song. It's reinterpreted here with crisper production, fun new lyrics and stronger hooks.

The whole album feels like a similar evolution. With an expanded roster of collaborators and some deviations from the standard Queers sound, Joe Queer nicely fleshes out his music. Of the two full-lengths his band did for Hopeless Records, this is the better one. The production is so clean and the songs are so consistently engaging that it almost sounds like a major label debut, but I can't see The Queers ever doing one of those. If there's one conclusion to draw from this album, it's that Joe Queer is happy right where he is at.