The Benzoes: Player Select – album review

BENZOESAlbum Review

The Benzoes: Player Select  (Bandcamp self-release)

DL only

8/10

Debut album from Virginia Valley punks reawakening the spirit of the Vandals and Angry Samoans in their  ‘songs about parasitic arachnids, deceased WWF stars, anti-psychotic medications, girls, beer, and life lived off-center’.  Ged Babey is won over when he realises they are not as dumb as they look!

 I spend all my hours on the Internet
Arguing with people that I’ve never met

My name’s no one and I’m desperate for approval
Too bad that my latest comment is flagged for removal    (Anonymity Anonymous)

When it comes to humour in Punk I have always preferred the American take on it.  The Vandals, Angry Samoans, the Queers, NoFX and so on are just so much better than Toy Dolls, Macc Lads and the Anti-Nowhere League.  It’s a personal preference I put down to watching too many imported Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid. The humour is sledgehammer-subtle, cartoonish slapstick, surreal and ludicrous and combined with the speed and energy of the music, it is more like ‘animated antics’ than the English counterparts (more puerile Benny Hill-isms).  Compare and contrast –They Saved Hitlers Cock  and Sweaty Betty on Youtube and see if I’m right.

Ironically Peter and the Test Tube Babies – one of the UK’ s most terrible and yet inexplicably popular ‘comedy punk’ bands -have just released a for once amusing -pisstake of American Pop-Punk-Bands. Its more about the millionaire Epitaph bands than young guns like the Benzoes.

The first time you listen to the Benzoes, without prior knowledge of them the vocals sound like that Tazmanian Devil from the ‘toons. The singer, Dennis, sings really fast and loud, with poor diction, in that bratty American accent and you only catch every other word.

Thank god for online lyric sheets – which download themselves with the mp3! The band name comes from the song ‘Off My Meds Again’

No more benzodiazepine/ I’ll self-medicate with coke and weed. /  I’m off my meds again.

Early Green Day, ‘Punk In Drublic’ and the Angry Samoans all spring to mind and its great: manic but musically accomplished fun.

When I first spoke to them online it went like this:

Ged LTW: Is there any kind of promo video – (not camera phone live footage please) ?
Ben Benzoe;  A sensible band would have that sort of thing. We do not.
Ged LTW: Cool! Disorganised, under-dog losers! My kinda band !
Ben Benzoe: Ha! Fame hungry, social media optimized young bands are missing the point sometimes. The song’s first. We don’t aim to reinvent the wheel- just to make really nice wheels.

I liked them immediately.  Their biog and influences were cool too.

The Benzoes do Virginia Valley Punk. We tip our cap to old-school punk from both coasts, and the classic fury of jolly ol’ England. We likewise dab our brush with some metal, alternative rock, indie rock, garage, blues, and just plain old noise before we unleash it on an unsuspecting canvas.

Artists We Also Like :  The Vandals, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, The Pogues, Iggy Pop, NOFX, Cock Sparrer, DayGlo Abortions, Agent Orange, Social Distortion, Suicidal Tendencies, The Clash, Pavement, David Bowie, The Pixies, The Men, Sonic Youth, Minutemen

What I wasn’t expecting – and which didn’t hit home til after the third listen and a good read thru the lyrics,- was what a clever, astute band, lyrically, the Benzoes are. Like the Ramones and many American bands since, the dumbness and slapstick silliness disguises intelligence and sensitivity.

They know their Shakespeare…

All the world is a basement stage and we are merely beer-drenched players…  (Beer)

They know that teenage angst and existential rage is the bedrock of rock’n’roll, let alone punk.

I’d rather break than have to bend…. (Paranoid Style)

Awareness eludes the weak   (Awareness)

They know that also , it’s just pop music and you can’t beat teenage romance as a theme

The bottles we don’t break we’ll save and then fill with candles
We’ll drink the rest and toss the empties from the car like vandals 

(Not a Godamn Thing)

They can do pathos.

{girls}  voices sound as spent as dollar bills    (Beer)

And then there is their ludicrous song about a parasitic arachnid ( Tick) which is basically an excuse to end the song with a full-on, full minute of them chanting…

You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck!          (Tick)

It’s the first song I’ve eve heard that includes the word ‘spirochetes’… although there is probably one by They Might Me Giants or some nerd-core outfit.

‘Player Select’ has the cheapest and nastiest and Most Crap album cover of any album released anywhere in the world this year. But other than that, it is a lot of fun with hidden depths and quality tuneage I wasn’t expecting.  Never judge a book by its cover.

Get a copy and crank it up.

The Benzoes are:

Keith Dowell: guitar/vocals
Perry Glass: drums/vocals
Dave Warguleski: guitar/vocals
Ben Whitlock: bass/vocals
Dennis Wymer: lead vocals/acrobatics

..and can be contacted at their Bandcamp and Facebook

 

All words by Ged Babey

 

 

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