Boris the Sprinkler - Vespa to Venus (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Boris the Sprinkler

Vespa to Venus (2019)

Beer City Records

Rev. Norb and Boris the Sprinkler seemed like they were everywhere in the ‘90s. Between 1992 and 2000, they released a cassette, seven studio LPs, including two full cover albums, two live records, and more splits and singles than you can shake a stick at. Norb was also a columnist for Maximum RockNRoll, and did a ton of guest appearances. (His rant on “Fun Tonight” on the first Riverdales record is epic.) It’s not that he ever left the scene. In more recent years, Rev. Norb and the Onions have been kicking around the greater Green Bay area. He also still writes, but now it’s for Razorcake. Honestly, it’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since the last Boris the Sprinkler record.

Norb’s beloved Bulge Records is no longer active, so Milwaukee based Beer City Records and Skateboards is releasing Vespa to Venus. Beyond just geography, it seems like a good match. Beer City has amassed an impressive catalog that is split between legacy acts and reissues, and newer punk and thrash bands. The common thread is that it’s all the kind of music that was skated to in the ‘80s. (Hip hop didn’t really get a strong foothold in skateboarding until later.) Like Boris, Beer City will really appeal to older punks (and hopefully some younger ones too).

Vespa to Venus reunites the classic Mega Anal lineup of Norb, Paul #1, Paul #2 and Ric Six. Even the title is an obvious reference to the glory years of Saucer to Saturn. (Which was an obvious reference to the Ramones classics Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin.) The great thing is, Vespa sounds like it could have come out during that earlier run. A total lack of musical growth is exactly what the world needed! The guitar has that same great, raunchy tone, and the overall production is nice and raw. Let’s face it, too many modern punk records are polished to death. There’s definitely no autotune on Norb’s manic, but easily recognizable vocals.

Longtime fans will get a sense of relief almost as soon as the needle hits the groove. Rather than a kick ass song starting right up, there’s some typical Norb nonsense at the beginning of “I Tell Ya! Tonight! Tonight!”. (Once the song starts it’s pretty great too!) To save us the trouble of looking at the record jacket, the name of each song is announced prior to it starting. (Longtime fans know that this is nothing new.) There are also a ridiculous amount of parentheses in the song titles, another Boris the Sprinkler trademark. Spoiler alert - there’s an amusing sign off too.

Highlights? There are many among these ridiculous oldies infected punk songs. “(What Did the) Dog Do (Now)”, “Gamma Ray Girl”, “Screamin’ Sister Cyanide”, “(When We Wore the) Haircuts (We Were the Ones)”, “Have You Made Lunch For Me Lately” and the extra nerdy “Working Class Kree” all jump out at you almost immediately. Then there’s “My Cock’s On Drugs”, for everyone’s inner 14 year old. By the time you get to the closer, the almost cover “Mop This Joint”, you will have definitely gotten your punk rock fix. It’s pretty likely that many of these songs will burrow into your brain and become important pieces of your personal Boris the Sprinkler lore.

Vespa to Venus is sixteen Ramones inspired songs written about completely random and mostly meaningless things. In 2019, most bands are focused on the negative aspects of politics and the generally disastrous state of the world. Vespa to Venus goes a completely different route. Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a punk record that’s actually fun! Can you imagine? Do you dare to remember? While the serious political stuff is important, so is this. Life’s too short to be bummed out all the time. Let Rev. Norb and the eight testicled pogo machine that is Boris the Sprinkler take you to your happy place.