There’s something completely disarming at work here. One would think that after even the briefest stints as either a) a music critic, b) a punk-rock fan, c) a casual radio listener or d) all of the above, pop-punk would be so old hat as to not even keep the musical rain off one’s head. Well, somehow, in the hands of Bay Area trio the Mr. T Experience, it’s fresh as rhyming “paranoid” with “schadenfreude.” And for those of you unfortunate enough to have not, er, experienced the three-chords-and-a-heart-on-its-sleeve magic of the Mr. T Experience, tune in now.
If the Ramones were brain-addled on glue, the MTX is addled on irony. And thanks to the tenacity and wordsmithery of MTX leader (and sole consistent member) Dr. Frank, we’re all a little better for it. … And the Women Who Love Them (Special Addition) is a thinly veiled excuse to exorcise a vault full of great material, starting with the handful of songs from the titular 1994 EP and expanding to include acoustic demos, rippin’ covers and songs from other EPs, until the CD’s swollen to 25 tracks. And the joy of this compendium is that just when you think you’ve had enough, MTX flips the script, pulls another hook out of the tackle box and employs various other metaphors and twisted clichés to keep you on the edge of your rocking chair with tales of love and its manifest weirdness.
Special Addition is also a testament to just how far the pop-punk genre has fallen since it was a genre chock-full of too-clever dorks like the MTX (and its musical forebears, the Descendents and the Ramones), who were using buzzing chords, “a-ha!” rhymes and, most of all, a bit of humble humanity to find an angle on the world.
I mean, could the amiable corporate lackeys in Blink-182 muster up the mental energy to title a kiss-off love song like “Checkers Speech” (featuring the kicker line, “you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more”)? Don’t think so. How about the brilliantly titled, self-deflating “As Life Goes On, You Get More and More Out of It”? Never clever without purpose, Dr. Frank’s lyrics are always dead-nuts on target (even when he’s on a rhyming run that includes, in this order, “ennui, misanthropy, weltschmerz and anomie”).
Particularly on the singer ’n’ guitar demos, Dr. Frank is much closer to Billy Bragg than Billie Joe Armstrong (even if Armstrong’s Green Day is the standard-bearer for this brand of rock). For giggles, Dr. Frank and company include covers of Duran Duran (“Is There Something I Should Know?”), Elton John (“Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” sung with the Muffs’ Kim Shattuck) and Schoolhouse Rock (“Unpack Your Adjectives”), along with a couple others that stand up well to the MTX treatment.
Hopefully a new generation of nerds ’n’ misfits will find this trunk o’ tunes and get hooked.
E-mail Chris Handyside at email@example.com.