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REVIEW: Weston, Got Beat Up (Go Kart)

REVIEW: Weston, A real life story of teen-age rebellion (Gern Blandsten) -Eric Hsu

 

This is the first band which I allowed to impair my hearing. Self-preservation usually keeps me from blowing out my ears with live music, but these guys had so much energy and life in their show that I couldn’t go away. They played for very small audiences, first in Sacramento, and then at Gilman in Berkeley, but still were a blast. They had stage antics from wild hopping, spastic leaping and hand claps to a weird trick where the bassist put his foot into his mouth while still singing and playing. I really respected the fact that they started each set with a whirlwind song whose entire lyrics were “I hear that (insert city name or club name) likes to rock, is it true that (insert city name) likes to rock?” It was worth the week of nausea and ringing in the ears.

 

I thought their unbelievably good stage show was the whole story until I listened to their first record, A real life story of teen-age rebellion which is full of outstanding power pop songs played competently with enthusiastic three-part harmony. I discovered that if anything, they play their songs too fast and too loud on stage. Basically they treated their own beautiful songs the same way they treated “Always on My Mind” on record: turn amps up all the way and play as fast as possible. Live, they buried gems like “Just Like Kurt” and “Little Mile” under supercharged guitars and tempos. When I told them that they should play quiter and slower, their drummer responded that they always wanted to play that loud and fast, but were never technically able to before. Oh well.

 

The songs veer from high-school romantic trauma to odder but still enjoyable topics (“I know you’re interested in my feet”). “Little Mile” is a clever Lolita-story (“if I was two years younger and you were two years older, it still wouldn’t matter… I’d walk a little mile for her, no more no less”). The peppy songs were balanced by songs like “Mr. Lazo” whose dopey chem class Lolita storyline is transcended by a reverbed guitar line that is almost meditative(!). This was one of my favorite records for a while.

 

I had greatly looked forward to the follow-up record Got Beat Up. I saw them live again, and they were great as usual, but naturally, you could tell anything about the new songs live (they all sounded like colossal bursts of white noise). And somehow I just can’t rekindle the same enthusiasm for their latest CD. It’s hard to describe why. If anything, their playing has gotten better, but the songs seem to be stuck in a rut. Despite the drummer’s threats, the songs are about the same tempo. There’s nothing wrong with ONE brilliant power-pop high school record with Ramones overtones (teenage rebellion) but to follow it up with a similar record turns a part of their personality into a selling strategy, especially when you hype up the nerdy high-school bit in your press release. And basically, there’s no song on this CD I like as much as any song on side one of teenage rebellion.

 

My recommendations: (1) see them live at all costs, (2) buy the teenage rebellion record at the show, or in the shops or by writing them, and (3) if you are the kind of person who regularly listens to more than two Ramones records, you should buy Got Beat Up. Otherwise, try to get a listen first at your friendly music retailer. You still might get caught. (Weston, 317 Hanover St. 2nd Fl, Bethlehem, PA 18018)