by Brian J. Audette
The Butts’ latest self-titled LP is unabashed everyperson punk: sardonically sophomoric, but slyly sophisticated at the same time. The band’s raw but polished delivery evokes the likes of classic punk and hardcore bands the Descendents and Husker Du, but with the brash lyrical bite of Screeching Weasel or the Dead Milkmen. It’s an approachable but frenetic brand of punk that combines aggressive rhythms with pop hooks and an almost angsty cynicism. The result is a fun collection of songs bereft of pretension, but that manages to be poignant at the same time.
From the opening salvo of The Butts’ “The Creature Under the Stairs” (a bouncy, schlock horror tinged sing-along) the stage is set with solid repetitious riffs and frontman Kurt Koegler‘s signature vocal growl. The album proceeds to bounce between dark daydreams and everyperson laments from that point on. The retail nightmare “Two Year Service Agreement” sees a disgruntled customer shoot a hapless clerk: “who’s the source of all her rotten luck/the symbolic tool corporation schmuck” sings Koegler, while “Budd Dwyer’s Final Repose” tackles the public suicide of a former Pennsylvania politician.
On the other side of the coin, songs like “Dreamland” see Koegler awakening to disheartening reality: “then it hits me like a giant boxing glove/my dreams are as boring as my life,” while “Screens” lays bare an all too common digital addiction, lamenting in its chorus “I feel so empty all the time (except when I’m online).” All of this is of course set to The Butts’ raucous pop punk guitars and pounding drums, that along with Koegler’s bratty vocal delivery serve to lighten the mood of such grim realities and everyday doldrums.
Where The Butts really shines for me is on songs like “Deadbeat Dad Day” and “Have a Seat.” Here Koegler shifts perspective to occupy the headspace of the deplorable subjects he’s singing about. The shift serves not to humanize these subjects, but instead (bolstered by the poppy musical delivery) further lampoon them, grimly caricaturing their worst behavior in a danceably derisive manner. “Have a Seat” see’s Koegler taking on the persona of a sexual predator pedophile, stalking a young girl through social media: “Sit down in my office chair, greasy palms and a blank stare/log into the chat room, to spread some terror and some doom.” Koegler doesn’t let his monster go unpunished however as the song concludes To Catch a Predator style: “as I step into the kitchen/Chris Hansen is there waiting/he tells me to ‘have a seat’.”
Quick and to the point, The Butts is a dichotomy of fun sounds and cynical lyrics full of tongue-in-cheek morality tales, self-effacement, and even a quality diss track. It’s schoolyard punk laced with dark humor and a dash of social awareness that rocks at the same time as its truths make you squirm.
The Butts play Sidewinder Friday, November 3rd along with ALL’s Scott Reynolds.