- Available on:
Bleeding Knees Club
Nothing to Do
Doing It Wrong in the Sand
Surfy/poppy garage punk albums about being young and screwed up are usually awesome and fun. That’s why it’s so bewildering that the debut full-length Nothing to Do from Australian surf rockers Bleeding Knees Club is such a bum out. It’s especially weird because the EP Virginity was pretty cool.
Youth is the obsessive theme of the album, as the song titles “Teenage Girls” and “Boy in Lust” communicate. The trouble is it sounds like an underpaid, creepy, middle-aged hack songwriter penned the entire thing. Each hooky, jumpy track evokes more sense memories related to the smell of cigar smoke than sunscreen. There’s a lot of talk about holding hands that stands in pointlessly for talk about sex.
When they aren’t trafficking in room-temperature teen-pop cliches, the songs are plain bizarre and not in an enjoyable way. “Girls Can Do Anything” seems at first like a chunk of bubblegum flavored girl power, but it turns out to be about going to the beach. The Beach Boys’s “Fun Fun Fun” and Jan and Dean’s “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” had more pronounced feminist themes. It’s confusing at best. Then there’s “Beach Slut,” a schmaltzy account of summer romance. The title appears to be meant as some kind of sophomoric joke. That’s just about the only recognizably youthful move on this album.
The members of this trio really are in their twenties and they really did write these songs. Maybe they’re just cynical and unimaginative for their ages. It seems as though the album was conceived and executed for the sole purpose of scoring opening slots for US garage-punk bros Black Lips. Flat production, tacked-on female backing vocals, and rote songwriting don’t do anything to combat the prefab feel. It’s a rock album that scrupulously avoids rocking, and if it reminds you of your youth it’s because you spent the entirety of it indoors watching 90210.
Garage rock and power pop today should subvert the time-tested formats it draws on (See: Hunx and His Punx), or it should be so blisteringly good and sincere that it renews the listener’s faith in old-time rock ‘n’ roll. Nothing to Do doesn’t manage either of those things. If you’re in the habit of paying for music, there are better garage punk albums out there to spend your money on. Leaving Atlanta by Gentlemen Jesse and his Men is worth every cent in any format.
“Teenage Girls” is the best track on the album. It was also on Virginity.