The Muffs - Whoop Dee Doo (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Muffs

Whoop Dee Doo (2014)

Burger Records/Cherry Red

The Muffs are back. I'm really pleased that The Muffs are back. I can't believe The Pixies treated Kim Shattuck like they did – that sucked and every time I hear Kim Shattuck growl and snarl on this record I believe it's aimed at that band. Just in case you have no idea who The Muffs are, they're a trio (originally a quartet) from L.A. and were responsible for a host of albums featuring a unique take on poppy and melodic punk rock and I'm kind of excited to have new music by the band. I apologise for that mini stream of consciousness but a new album by The Muffs elicits joy and breathlessness in me, almost to the point where I'm hyperventilating.

Whoop Dee Doo is in fact the band's first album in ten years and in all honesty it doesn't stray from the path that Shattuck and her co—conspirators of 20 years, Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald, have furrowed for all of their careers under the banner of The Muffs. From the moment the caustic "Weird Boy Next Door" springs into life I feel totally energised and full of expectancy as Shattuck is back doing what she does so well – spewing lyrics that are sort of nasty but which are played out over up—tempo and almost playful punk rock.

"Take A Take A Me" – the highlight of the album is a track which conjures up thoughts of The Bangles in terms of the general feel of the song, as it has moments that are definitely a bit like "Walk Like An Egyptian" although this is a track in which Shattuck clearly marks out her intention to defend her relationship from anyone wanting to potentially wreck it. Although The Muffs are doing what they have always done, it doesn't mean that the album is lacking in variety as proved by "Where Did I Go Wrong," a great song with a beat that seems slightly unnatural at times and I marvel at how the guitar and vocals tie in with the drums in an awkward yet perfect way. Another fine example of the versatility comes on the slower songs like "Up And Down Around," on which the rhythm section really gets to show what it can do and I find myself transfixed on McDonald's drumming which has a clear tone and excellent use of cymbals.

Shattuck's guitar drives the songs along beautifully, with a sweet fuzzed tone that is another of the sounds that I associate so strongly with the band. Another key element of the band's sound is the way that the rhythm section adds punch and pace to the songs without ever becoming overbearing or intrusive. I find it hard to categorise the overall sound of The Muffs to the uninitiated because I don't think the band sits firmly in one particular genre: there are pop—punk overtones in there but not enough to nail that down as their sound. There is clearly a melodic punk element that is inherent in what The Muffs do but there is also a nod towards the girl groups of the 1950s as well as including more than just a smidge of '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll as well. All in all, the band combines these and other minor traits (the intro to "Cheezy" definitely nods its head to The Beatles) to give them a flavor which marks them out as distinctive.

Even though age has had some impact on Shattuck's voice, she still has one of the most perfect growls ever recorded and the occasions when she unleashes this on the listener's ears are always memorable. Despite that slight aged tinge to her vocals, the combination of sweet and sour lyrics are still dealt with perfectly across this record and lines like ‘and I'm a gonna punch her out and I'm a gonna scream and shout' ("Take A Take A Me"), ‘he's an empty vessel, made of cotton candy, nobody knows why he's such a dud' ("Weird Boy Next Door") and ‘I'm feeling so contrite but I'll never say you're right' ("Where Did I Go Wrong") result in me grinning widely, even though they're far from being the most pleasant lyrics that one could hear.

We all know the old adage ‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it' and for The Muffs it's one that has remained true ever since the band started: Whoop Dee Doo would fit in at any stage of the band's chronological output without causing any real change from one record to the next.