Friday, August 26, 2011

In Case You Missed It: Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward

Friday is always a cause for celebration in my book, especially when it's a Friday that precedes what's sure to be a great Saturday (but more on that tomorrow). I was listening to JEFF The Brotherhood's Blue Album wannabe jam, "Hey Friend", trying to get in the Friday mood, when I realized that no band better epitomized the fun, caffeinated, fuck-all feeling I aim for when I leave work each Friday than Jake Orall's previous band, Be Your Own Pet.

Be Your Own Pet was a gloriously snotty four-piece formed by a group of teenagers from Nashville in 2003. Jake formed the band with his brother Jamin on drums, and semetic dreamboat Jonas Stein on the six-string, but it wasn't until they met classmate Jemina Pearl that they found their heart and soul. They were everything a punk band should be, they were underaged, overamped, noisy, spastic, juvenile, catchy as hell and occasionally insightful despite their own best efforts. They released their self-titled debut in 2006 and were no longer a band by late summer 2008 but today we're gonna look at their swan song, 2008's Get Awkward.

First let it just be said that it the worse example of label excision since post 9/11 paranoia kept "New York City Cops" off of the US version of Is This It?, the US version of Get Awkward was neutered of some of its best songs, so henceforth all references shall be about the UK version and we will not speak of such things again.

Get Awkward is not even a distillation of the high school experience à la Chuck Berry, as much as it is a spike directly into the stream of consciousnesses of a smart, angry and overstimulated teen who also happens to be the coolest girl in class. "Black Hole" opens the album with scratchy but not abrasive guitar chords and the first in a string of practically non-stop lyrical gems. Pearl channels the angst that is part of all teenage experience, "drinkin' Coca Cola all night / oh baby, wanna get in a fight?" The black hole Pearls sings about is the aimlessness felt during those years when you're old enough to want to get the hell away from family, school, etc. but not yet old enough to make that happen. Earnest childhood joys blend perfectly with loose, undirected adolescent rage in lines like "eating pizza is really great / so is destroying everything you hate" and "breaking glass bottles is oh so fun / let's go and kill someone!"

Get Awkward is littered generously with songs full of dementedly immature and witty lines that you can't help but sing along with while grinning from ear-to-ear. The songs are generally self-explanatory and just as fun as they sound. "Food Fight!" starts with the seemingly jerky refrain "sucks to be the janitor!" before Pearl not only crosses the line but shits all over as she brags that she'll "crash a six-year-old's birthday party, / smash some cake in her face, make her grab her mommy!" She's no less direct on "Zombie Graveyard Party" telling her boyfriend that "life is lame, so let me eat your brain!" She even invents an wickedly catchy superhero-esque theme song for her crush in "Blummer Time."

Without discounting the truth and power contained in simple statements like those, Pearl really shines when she showcases her unique perspective on relationships both friendly and romantic. She offers something almost never seen in pop music - the honest, conflicted perspective of an actual teenage girl. "Heart Throb" shows her pining for a crush but unable to speak. It's as emotionally vulnerable as anything on Violent Femmes or Pinkerton but without the fey helplessness or whiny blue balls moaning that bedevils so many songs by women and men on the subject. "Twisted Nerve" and "Yr A Waste" deal with the helplessness of being dumped with righteous anger that never even tries to hide the raw pain and love she still feels.

Non-romantic relationships are seemingly no easier though. On "Bitches Leave" Pearl rejects both the girl-on-girl cattiness and willing sexual debasement she sees around her "you laugh and giggle like you haven't got a brain / the way you talk is driving me insane / I know you're lying 'bout how you take it in the rear." The undisputed gem of this album however, is easily the homicidal girl group homage "Becky." Pearl speak-sings a Mean Girls inspired tale of betrayal by a former best friend who turns around and tells her secrets to the school and befriends "Becky facelift." Pearl doesn't suffer in silence though, making her friend "cry a little bit at lunch" before taking truly drastic action. The dark comic height is the dramatic reveal of where the story is told from, which I won't ruin for you. Sufficed to say it's one of those lines that's so good it's funny time after time.
There are a few signs of growing maturity on Get Awkward that in retrospect heralded the beginning of the end for Be Your Own Pet. "Super Soaked" starts this trend while "Creepy Crawl" explores the alienation of coming home after touring and realizing that "I'm not the girl I was before." The world of fame in LA doesn't look that much better though, as seen in "The Kelly Affair." Ultimately, like all teens, Be Your Own Pet are without a country. "The Beast Within" highlights this as Pearl screams at her parents with the misguided wisdom of youth, "I've got nothing left to learn / I've only got more time to burn / I'll drink your stuff and puke it up / can't you tell I don't give a fuck."

But don't get bogged down in lyrics and analysis unless you want to. As Daniel Desario says in Freaks and Geeks, "rock n' roll don't come from your brain, it comes from your crotch" and Get Awkward certainly lives up to that standard. It's an album to throw on the stereo turn up until the guitars rips a few holes in your ears and lose some brain cells to. Don't be surprised if you learn something while losing those brain cells though. It's ok, we won't tell anyone.

Black Hole - Be Your Own Pet
Becky - Be Your Own Pet
Blummer Time - Be Your Own Pet
Food Fight - Be Your Own Pet
The Beast Within - Be Your Own Pet

Buy the album.

Bonus Track
Bicycle Race [Queen] - Be Your Own Pet
From the Killer Queen tribute album, which also contains a fun, trippy take on Bohemian Rhapsody by The Flaming Lips.


  1. There is no Jeff Orrall. JEFF The Brotherhood and Be Your Own Pet were both started by Jake and Jamin Orrall. They also started Infinity Cat Records, who launched BYOP. I always thought JEFF were the better band (and now they've proved it with We Are The Champions), but you're totally right bout the mess Universal made of Get Awkward. They took all the best songs off it! Although my fave BYOP song is still Damn Damn Leash, not on either album. Your blog is good! Long live Be Your Own Pet!

  2. Thanks for for the corrections, duly noted! I'm only slowly getting into JEFF but We Are The Champions has been irresistible. I'm gonna have to check out Damn, Damn Leash because anything BYOP has touched as been golden, as far as I'm concerned.