Screeching Weasel - The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel (Cover Artwork)

Screeching Weasel

The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel (2022)

Monona Records

What do Ozzy Osbourne and Screeching Weasel have in common? They both start an album off with a hard-hitting, tom-heavy drum intro that sets the pace for the rest of the record. Duh! Unlike Ozzy’s near five-minute “Over the Mountain,” however, Ben Weasel and company sum up all they have to say in the opening track in just 61 seconds. This short and sweet opener conveys the anxieties of the 2020 lockdown and the social unrest that followed and mirrors it to an individual’s own personal struggles with mental illness and the urge to “burn it all down.” Or, maybe it’s not about any of those things. These well-crafted tunes keep the listener guessing. That is the beauty of The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel and one of the things that set it apart from the rest of their over three-decade long catalog.

The second song and perhaps the catchiest, “Any Minute Now,” is a lot more straightforward lyrically and almost sounds like it could’ve been on Ben Weasel’s 2007 These Ones Are Bitter. A couple of other tracks also sound like they could fit elsewhere in the Weasel discography. The beginning of “Just Another Fool” feels as if it could cozy up comfortably on 2020’s Some Freaks Of Atavism, but it keeps you guessing again once the epic chorus comes rolling in with backing bells and all. After a listen or two, it’s obvious that none of these tunes could really work on any other album. They are right where they should be on The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel.

Understandably so, a lot of fans were disappointed over John Jughead’s absence before the Weasel resurgence of the late 2000s. But, the punk rock lord taketh away and the punk rock lord giveth and Screeching weasel was given Mike Kennerty. Though behind the scenes mostly on previous projects from the last fifteen years or so, this man has helped Weasel and Co. stay as fresh and relevant as ever. His presence is felt even more this time around because on top of producing and background vocal duties, he is now playing guitar alongside Mike Hunchback. Hunchback, along with bass guitarist Zach Brandner and drummer Pierre Marche all return and are responsible for the tightest Screeching Weasel lineup ever. This band has never sounded so good and Ben Weasel’s voice and songwriting seem to be improving as well.

Well over thirty years into his career, Weasel is hitting notes he could never hit before. The extremely poppy and perfectly sequenced side A ender, “Kill To Cure,” beautifully exemplifies this. Maybe it’s the fact that he took so much time off over the years or started seeing a vocal coach, but Ben’s throat brings it and shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to keep things fresh and interesting with his chord structures, too. “Pandora’s Eyes” begins as a straightforward pop punk gem; four chords and that signature Weasel, one note at a time lead. Then, before the first verse is over, the chords are all over the place while still working together to create a uniquely original spin on the type of song that’s been done to death by musicians who once grew up with Screeching Weasel and are now contemporaries. Hopefully people can see the irony of the front sleeve’s Godfather-esque artwork coming from the godfathers of this type of music.

With a new producer/music partner, fresh and equally talented bandmates, and songs that continue to push the limits of a sub-genre that he is partly responsible for creating, Ben Weasel could easily just phone it in and people would still buy his albums. Luckily, he chooses to keep on expanding and trying new things without straying too far from the winning formula (sans 2015’s Baby Fat: Act 1). The song “Hey Diana” utilizes organs, slightly reminiscent of “Cool Kids” or “Peter Brady,” with lyrics about wanting to grow old with a partner. This is penned by the same guy who once wrote “I Hate Old Folks.” Describing The Awful Disclosures of Screeching Weasel as mature wouldn’t be accurate, because after all, it is a Screeching Weasel record. But, the life that has been lived and the changes along the way all show up and add to the songs with that continued sense of drive and surprise. Again, you’d think “Hey Diana” is just a predictable pop punk song and then comes that bridge out of nowhere that keeps you guessing and wanting more.

Mr. Weasel has always been able to end an album with a good closer and “Tell Me Your Lies” is no exception. The driving beat, the infectious one note lead, and the repeated lyrics “panic in stereo” all serve as a crescendo to a batch of songs that shouldn’t even exist. Yet, Weasel and Co. keep on getting better and continuously proving that they are the staple of this type of music. Who knows what the future will bring for this band and Ben, but it’s safe to say that they'll keep you guessing and continue to expand and explore new terrain while never straying too far from what makes this type of music so enduring.