Basketball Shorts’ Hot and Ready is Pop Punk at its Best

by Nick Hanover

Basketball Shorts Hot and Ready

For the past week or so, I’ve felt like my body has been little more than a snot producing machine. I’m so stuffed up I feel like my head is submerged in an ocean of socks. Clearly this is the best possible place to be in while writing a review of Basketball Shorts’ debut full length Hot and Ready.

Equal parts snotty and death defying, Basketball Shorts are Austin’s reigning pop punk titans, as comfortable around pizza sex metaphors (the album’s title track) as they are Misfits-esque doom rock (“Lookin'”) and surprisingly somber odes to loss (“9 Lives”). Hot and Ready sticks to a standard pop punk sonic template but this songwriting depth is a large part of what makes Basketball Shorts stand out from so many of their peers. They have the snotty tone, propulsive hooks and pogoing rhythms down but once the thrill of that pop punk familiarity wears off, Hot and Ready remains intriguing because of the unexpected layers to Basketball Shorts’ craft.

“Apologetic” is a handy example of this, with its slyly jangly guitar intro leading into a Ramones indebted verse that eventually opens up into a dreamier, well-arranged chorus complete with layers of harmonies. The verse formula leads you to expect a very straightforward punk track but the melodic detours indicate that Basketball Shorts’ record collections extend far beyond what you’d find on an NME Best Punks Bands listicle. The aforementioned “9 Lives” pulls off a different kind of trick, juxtaposing the Buzzcocks musical components with a heartbreaking remembrance of a friend who thought he was immune to death and paid for it.

Even the most traditional punk tracks on the album, like Forrest Gump referencing disability anthem “Magic Legs,” and Home Alone fan epic “Kevin McAllister,” aren’t just cheeky takes on pop culture icons but full on character studies, albeit complete with snappy one liners and ADHD jokes. Likewise, spry sports-as-relationship-metaphor ditty “Romo to Dez” has a punked up tempo but it makes a solid case for Basketball Shorts as a secret power pop band, with its disarmingly sweet chorus and singalong refrains rising up from the typically sharp guitar interplay.

But perhaps the most surprising moment on Hot and Ready comes from bonus track “Drive,” a cover of the less-than-fondly remembered 1984 Cars hit. Where the original seemed hellbent on sucking every ounce of fun out of the New Wave pioneers, Basketball Shorts bring more than speed and intensity to their cover, they remove all the bloat and excess, letting sharp guitar riffs and stacked group vocals say more than warbly synths and gated drums ever could.

Pop punk rightfully gets derided for its formulaic structures and juvenilia, but Hot and Ready is the rare pop punk work that celebrates those things and adds to them, proving that the best pop punk bands are able to comment on those stereotypical elements while adding subtle ingredients that greatly enhance the durability of the work. Now pardon me while I return to blowing my nose to the tune of “Hot and Ready.”

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover