Be Your Own Pet

Be Your Own Pet

(Ecstatic Peace; 2006)

By Alan Baban | 11 May 2006

Be Your Own Pet’s throwing a party, and people are gyrating spastically, dry-humping and full of saliva, and, color me impressed, I’m in the corner. I don’t do dancing in front of total strangers. I’d like to think it was because of a clubfoot. Maybe it’s just aristocratic poise. I blame it on an unfortunate Dance Dance Revolution incident. I realize I’m being ridiculous. There is something inherently moronic in sitting down and spying others wading through tactile quagmires, relieved to be bereaved of inhibition. But somebody has to resist the pull toward the dancefloor; somebody has to take notes.

Give me the David Byrne bob or the Frog Eyes fit any day, the Black Francis thesis into phantasmagorical metamorphoses. Now, those guys frickin’ have id (sic). They never finished Doom. Neither has, I suspect, Jemima Pearl, Be Your Own Pet’s very own charisma carpenter, tailored to look, act, and sing cute. She succeeds, yelping through youth with full-throated ease, the rhythm of her feet imaginary, her shrill cadences right on the money. And she’s hot, too, by anybody’s standard. All the band has to do is follow suit.

Be Your Own Pet regrettably doesn’t come compete with the group’s first single “Damn Damn Leash," all ninety seconds of which could say much more about the band than any review could. This shit defines “immediate,” and if you heard a minute of one track you’d know what every other track sounds like. To pick it apart is to undermine that immediacy, which is obviously its sole intent. The very process of writing about Be Your Own Pet is counteractive to hearing their music.

But, you know, here goes. Buzzsaw surf-rock guitars wriggle themselves impatiently free of clothed line sagas, the boundless rhythm propelling the song onwards and snapping back like a mongrel on a leash. But, hey, at least it doesn’t have pretensions about being a manifesto or anything. “Adventure,” “Wildcat!” and the appropriately titled “Fuuuuun” work within these similar, limited parameters--loud guitars, preschool chord progressions, adrenaline. And though the band’s snap crackle pop ebullience literally carries them through the totality of the album, and admirably too, it does nothing if not box them into smaller and smaller confines.

The very act of playing a BYOP song tightens the leash, pulled taut by the tension of a band going a thousand places at once, “on two wheels, BABY.” So it’s all fun, good-natured stuff, if in measured doses, and between this and a bunch of sadsaps carving faux-Romantic sonnets on their wrists, I guess I’d go for the former. After all, Sunny D’s always superior to Coke, even though it’ll make you feel pretty yellow after a while.

The key to enjoying this album is listening to it in moderation. The band’s unquenchable urge to unleash a sonic barrage at every instance can ultimately frame itself as a cruel, negative permanence. There are occasions when the band shifts gears from LOUD and FAST: “October, First Account Track,” for example, explores a Wowee Zowee unhinged melody, but a caterwaul tightens the cord, and Pearl severs the connection--“We’re, we’re not out of ammo yet!”--and it’s totally disheartening to watch them tumble back into form.

And I’m not a killjoy. Let the children have their rock and roll. Let them bumble around and try to shake off that iniquitous energy. Unfortunately, I think Be Your Own Pet are aiming at the post-kindergarten market, but their frothing, maniacal pace seems a bit more like nursery rock. It’s fourteen shots of juice concentrate and an ice cube of water, and the sugar high wears off quickly and unpleasantly. Yes, the album drags. Yes, the tracks bleed into each other. It is, ultimately, a tiring listen from a band whose sole aim seems to be to innervate every neurone in your body.

Energy is to be admired, and if BYOP infuse their unabashed momentum with a dose of variety, or adventurous melody, they could be a force to be reckoned with. For now: well, they’re a force to be reckoned with.