Fearless Records, 1997
REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/11/1997
I'm wet behind the ears when it comes to the punk genre and the process of drying is slow. Certain CDs are advancing the process and I have just found Bigwig's Unmerry Melodies to be the latest in my effort to fully appreciate this genre.
I used to think Green Day was the greatest punk band in the world. (No snide remarks, please.) Then I heard Slayer's CD of punk cover songs Undisputed Attitude (1996). In the press kit that came with my promotional copy, the band cut into bands like Green Day, The Offspring and Rancid. Vocalist Tom Araya commented, "Punk is a combination of attitude and social commentary of the times. What's the commentary behind that "Stink Breath" (Green Day) song?"
Araya had a good point, although I wouldn't be fair unless I pointed out that the Undisputed Attitude disc came out in the midst of Green Day, The Offspring, and Rancid rising to a crest in national popularity. Who was on whose coattails? I always found it somewhat ironic that their stab at punk came in the middle of its reincarnation as radio-friendly bands.
Despite all of that, I like Undisputed Attitude and I like Dookie. I think the genre is big enough for both bands. Undisputed Attitude can be credited with infusing an awareness into me that Green Day may not be the greatest punk rock band in the world.
Then I got a CD by New Mexico's Fetal Remains, who were on the Omnious Records label. Their CD Someday marked another pivotal moment in my struggle to redefine the punk genre with aggressive lyrics, musicianship and attitude. (I have tried to find this band's website to no avail. If you happen to know the URL, please e-mail me.)
The latest CD by which I am redefining punk in my own mind is Bigwig's Unmerry Melodies. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, there's not a lot to deal with quantity-wise. Quality-wise, let me say I don't take this disc out of my player very often.
The disc opens with "Old Lady" an upbeat nonstop punk thrasher. The lyrics deal with a car wreck:
Today on the wrong side of the road An old lady, she crashed my car She was about 80 years old She said, "Son just be lucky That your (sic) still alive"
In the classic punk attitude that Araya discussed, vocalist Tom responds:
Fuck you, you crashed my car! Four years of work in a junkyard Be lucky you're still alive Fuck you, you shouldn't be allowed to drive
So that should give you an idea from where Bigwig is coming. It's an understatement to say that the attitudes on this disc are a lot harsher than anything Green Day has come out with!
The band rips into a cover of the "Cheers" theme in track four. Track five, "Pro Life Taker," attacks the "right wing fascist twisted fucking mind"(s) of pro-lifers. Vocalist Tom berates the extremists when he rants, "Maybe in this case theres (sic) no wrong or right/ But it shouldn't be a fight/ so you bomb another clinic/ Who made you God?"
And Tom is not done with his ranting. We're talking one pissed off punk rocker. In "Your In Sample," he sings "Tears are dripping from my eyes/ When I think of what you've done/ Spoke to me about nothing but lies/ And now you are gone." For me, lyrics like that are something to which I can relate, having had my share of relationships that just didn't work out. You know, "Let's just be friends."
The CD ends with the hilarious untitled track 13 which is an answering machine message from a friend (I guess) of the band.
Overall, Unmerry Melodies makes me realize Araya had a point. Punk is NOT exclusively played by bands like Green Day, The Offspring and Rancid. Punk includes bands like Bigwig, who are not on a major label, that are relevant to the music world. Wholeheartedly, I recommend this CD if you are looking for a reason to enjoy punk rock again.