with Cobra Skulls, Tooth & the Enamels, Larf
Backbooth, Orlando, Fl • October 16, 2009
From the bustling musical hotbed of Laramie, Wyoming to the deep corners of downtown Orlando, Teenage Bottlerocket gives pop punk fans reason to rejoice in the simple pleasures of the three-chord, three-minute song structure.
Backbooth tightened up early thanks to the inclusion of Cobra Skulls and a pair of local favorites. The young and charmingly bratty sounds of Larf were perfectly in keeping with the evening’s bill, whereas Tooth & the Enamels brought a little raunch to the night. Songs about sexual fluids rubbed up against the group’s usual mix of those themed on zombies and, of course, dental hygiene. Since last I’d seen them play, they’ve brought in a new bass player and shifted the old one (Jeff Bad Breath) onto the guitar to replace their former player who left the state, and so, the band. Though Bad Breath messed up more than once on his new instrument, their set was still one of the strongest I’ve seen them give.
Most of their success can be attributed to front man, Tooth, who clearly understands the strange appeal of a band whose members exist as characters onstage – his being that of a sex-crazed, horror-movie-obsessed ringleader for a band of misfits with bad teeth. It’s this “character” that saves his lyrics from being horribly offensive. Snotty shouts of “I wanna cum all over you!” become sincere in their vulgarity when sung by such a ridiculous singer.
Cobra Skulls, who should first be congratulated for both their name and their killer logo (a cobra head with a skull inside its mouth), ride the same rock new wave as Against Me. They infuse punk rock melodies with politics, sung with a passionate snarl, but play it with more of a rockabilly strut than their Gainesville peers. With only two albums, both put out by Red Scare, they’ve already begun winning over legions of listeners and rightfully so.
Bassist Devin Peralta and guitarist Adam Beck share the vocals. Their voices are oil and water, yet rather than clash, they somehow complement one another, giving otherwise straightforward punk songs like “Rebel Fate,” and the bilingual “Thicker Than Water” an anthemic feel. Added to the voices from the stage were those of the kids in the crowd, who lent their lungs to every song – even the newest songs off American Rubicon. As psyched as the audience was to see Teenage Bottlerocket, many were not ready to let the Skulls’ set end.
With nearly twice as many bodies in Backbooth as those who had come out for the band’s 2008 show there, it looks as if Teenage Bottlerocket is fast outgrowing the small club. The band has been quietly building a rabid following over its eight-year existence that will only multiply further upon the release of its latest disc of Ramones-ian punk, They Came From the Shadows. Teenage Bottlerocket makes albums that are short enough to listen to in its entirety on the drive to the show, and they follow the time-tested pattern perfected by pop punk’s predecessors. When a combination of three chords, a simple bass line, a basic beat, and a repetitive chorus does the job, why mess with the magic?
The four piece, led by guitarists/vocalists Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman (who’s also in The Lillingtons), blasted through an unstoppable set of adrenaline jolts. Unlike the cool and calm Kody, Ray – when not pulling lead vocal duties – bounced around the stage like his feet were on fire. Bassist Miguel Chen held down the traditional wide legged DeeDee Ramone pose while holding down the rhythm with drummer Brandon Carlisle (Ray’s twin bro), who removed his glasses before playing to avoid destroying them with his maniacal playing. Think bouncy, poppy punk rock can be played with maniacal abandon? Think again. “Fatso Goes Nutzoid,” a brand new song, has the band branching into thrash territory – it’s the most intense bit of fun in their catalog to date. If this is the direction that the band is headed, look for shows to get progressively crazier!
Their songs may be too simple for some, but there’s a purity to the Bottlerocket boys’ unassuming approach to writing and playing that transports you back to the pre-digital days when music, and everything else, seemed so much simpler. They remind us that a beer and a good band can make the bullshit of the day disappear in an instant. If that’s not a good reason to go to a concert, I don’t know what is.