The Bugs - The Bugs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Bugs

The Bugs (2009)


Formed in 1998, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network helps link young activists looking to fight homo- and transphobia. I was involved with the group on and off during my college years. I was also the LGBTQ listings intern for City Paper in Philadelphia for a semester. I mention these things so that you, the reader, will be able to figure out how I handle pop-punkers the Bugs' casual gay-bashing on their self-titled full-length.

Ironically featuring Queers bassist Dangerous Dave, the band churns out anti-gay sentiments at a breakneck pace (the album totals 13.5 minutes). "Never Went Gay" is a 42-second repetition of its title over Ramones-y pop-punk playing that's too lazily written to feel like legitimate hate speech, but there's something about the tone that gives it a bitter sound. The contradictory "I'm Turning Gay" is a joke song about gently loving dudes because ol' Dave "can't keep a girlfriend and I don't know why / I think I just might do it / See a dude's ass and screw it / and be gay." "Email from a She-Male" worries about people learning that the protagonist knows at least one trans person. "Dave Navarro's Goatee Fucking Sucks," while boasting a scientifically accurate title, trips itself up by equating homosexuality with sucking. Oddly enough, the genre criticisms of "No More Emo Haircuts" never skew towards hateful ignorance. Dave just hates those kids for "writing lots of poems." Because if there's one thing the Bugs don't do, it's express feelings with words at any great length.

Admittedly, not every tune the Bugs write is homophobic -- a good chunk of the album is about drugs. In a way, these tracks are worse, because while "Lesbo! Lesbo" is offensive, it's at least more memorable than "Meth on My Mind" or "Back on the Weed." "I Wish I Was a Mexican" would be racist if it weren't for the fact that folks 'round here can "drink a Bud" and "get a mustache and some shades" regardless of ethnicity. This is America, dammit. It's tempting to pull back a bit and let the Bugs lack o' topics or depth slide. It's just pop-punk, after all. But even on those grounds, the trio still fails. Folks would be better off with the Ramones or Screeching Weasel. And if you like your pop-punk homophobic, there's always Descendents' "I'm Not a Loser."