Screeching Weasel -- Formula 27 (EP)
Formula 27 is easily one of my favorite 7-inch'ers ever. I remember driving to Minneapolis with my roommate, stopping by Extreme Noise, poring over the crates of vinyl, realizing that my finances were rather limited and, ultimately, deciding that if I was going to allow myself to "splurge" on anything, it would be on this four-song EP. I also remember driving my roommate crazy by playing it over and over again on our lone turntable the second we got home.
But that's Screeching Weasel for you. Some people love them, absolutely love every second of the band's music, and other folks . . . well, their taste is impaired.
At any rate, Formula 27 is classic Screeching Weasel. In fact, as a companion to the band's stellar Bark Like a Dog LP, Formula 27 is the last release the band's "classic" Ben Weasel / Danny Vapid / Jughead / Dan Panic lineup would produce. For anyone even cursorily familiar with the midwestern punk scene during the 1990s, this was the lineup that also churned out My Brain Hurts, a cover of the Ramones' first album, Wiggle, and Anthem for a New Tomorrow between 1991 and 1993. And the four tracks on Formula 27 rank right up there with the strongest songs on those seminal albums.
In other words, Formula 27 consists of fast, Ramonsy pop-punk with lyrics about romantic misadventures delivered in Ben Weasel's trademark snotty suburbs-o'-Chicago whine. And it's not that sort of saccharine "If only you knew how great I am, then you'd like me" crap that has brought fame and fortune to certain unnamed guyliner-sporting emo bands. To wit:
Oh yeah I'm getting old and fat and it seems
That everywhere I turn pretty girls just pass me by and stare
right through me
Pretty girls oh oh yeah look fresh and bright and pure and so clean
But you know pretty girls oh oh yeah would never associate
with scum like me
Seriously, how great would it be if Jimmy Eat World or the Get-Up Kids sang "I'm getting old and fat"? Brilliant, Ben, brilliant.
Track 1. "(Nothing's Gonna) Turn Me Off (Of You)." Growing up, I never really understood the concept of dancing. I mean, I had a vague idea that it involved moving in response to music, but I'd never felt the urge to move. When I first heard the bouncy rhythm of "(Nothing's Gonna) Turn Me Off (Of You)," however, my body began jerking awkwardly and, suddenly, I got it. Of course, I resembled Seinfeld's Elaine Benes. But you get the point. The song hooks you immediately. Additionally, the song contains another of Weasel's lyrical gems: "I'm not as desperate as I probably seem / you really are the girl of some of my dreams."
Track 2. "Pretty Girls Don't Talk to Me." Now that I'm thirty, I am beginning to understand the whole "I'm getting old and fat" thing. Getting to the song, though, this is one of Ben Weasel's finer moments. You've got a bit of the super-melodic lead guitar sound fans will associate with songs like "Guest List," but it doesn't take over the song. Instead, it's a perfect compliment to Weasel's start-again, stop-again vocals. The really great thing about this track, though, is the twenty-five second bridge linking the relatively restrained first two-thirds of the song with the frenetic crescendo.
Track 3. "I Don't Care Anymore." Okay, take the somber mood of the last song and add hand clapping and ivory-tickling to the mix. These sixties throwback stylings work really well, transforming a solid nineties' pop-punk song into something entirely different. Once the oohs and aahs (well, mostly oohs, actually) kick in with about minute left on the track, you've got the punk equivalent of the sort of song you'd find at the end of a high school movie. You know, the song that plays when the reticent kid gets to dance with the apple of his or her eye. Only this is actually good.
Track 4. "Why'd You Have to Leave?"All right, now take the hand clapping and ooh-aahing from the last song and add the bounce of the first track. Enjoy.
Sobriquet Grade: 90 (A-)