Squirrel Bait - Squirrel Bait (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Squirrel Bait

Squirrel Bait (1985)

Drag City

There is a certain something...maybe it's in the water, maybe the beer, I don't know and I'm not sure I even want to know. One thing that's for sure though, is that "something" is an anomaly almost entirely self-contained within the Midwestern United States. That is an ability to perfectly create aggressive punk rock that is just as serious about being melodic and honest as it is about rocking your pants off and never forgetting the reach around. But I digress; there are two non-Midwestern bands that should automatically spring to mind when such a description is uttered in some dank sweaty bar after getting into a fight with a lampshade -- the first being Montreal's the Nils and the second being the band in question: Louisville's Squirrel Bait.

If you open up to the back of the album insert you will find the priceless picture of two kids dancin' up something strong. That pretty much sums up this record. It is that awkward kid brother at a show that gets tanked off a thimble of peach Schnapps and makes a total ass of himself but looks like he's having all the fun (you know the kid, hell, I was that kid). From the beginning of guitarist David Grubbs' reverberated squeals and wails opening up before the vocals kick in on "Hammering So Hard" it would appear to mimic the young lad's unintelligible version of "up yours!" You know, before that foul crusty punk with the Fear patch taps him on the shoulder and says, "punx don't dance, we boogie." The most representative kernel of the band's style would have to be during "Sun God." The verses build around a tender but never weak guitar line while maintaining an edge of muscle that only climaxes during the chorus after the appropriate foreplay that precedes it. The repeated lines of "ticking away" in the chorus are belted out so desperately by vocalist Peter Searcy's rasp that it somehow simultaneously conveys a sense of nihilism and hopefulness.

The band keeps things short and sweet with the eight songs clocking in at less than 20 minutes. Every song maintains the same hard and catchy formula but none blend into each other because for the most part the melodies are pretty original. After this swift kick in the pants you should be left wanting more, however if any more were added it would seem to offset the delicate balance created within the disc.

This is a truly perfect record, and not because it is old but because it perfectly captures the essence of the teenage experience of rock‘n'roll. I must admit though, if the adage "the older the berry the sweeter the juice" ever held true, this album fits into that. The only downside to the record is no lyric booklet, which would help, but a lot of the lyrics can be picked out without too much difficulty. So bottom line: if you like Hüsker Dü or the Replacements' more rocking moments, give Squirrel Bait a chance and you probably won't regret it in the morning.