When I saw boys cruise live, the four band members switched pants with each other mid-set. They exchanged instruments too, but pants-swapping tends to steal the spotlight from musical versatility. Like a rock-show Alice in Wonderland, the quartet rotated around the stage after every song, leveling up the antics each time. At one point, they cut off a band member’s hair onstage and threw huge hunks into the crowd. Then they smashed the chair he was sitting on. That went into the crowd too.
Their debut album is every bit as shaggy as those shorn locks lying on the club floor. Like early Best Coast or Ty Segall, boys cruise packs a lot of pop smarts in a sloppy package. Their debut album sounds like Motown songs as performed by one of those one-hit ’60s garage bands on Nuggets.
Also like Motown songs, the sonics can conceal some unexpectedly moving lyrics. In this case, the silly party-rock energy masks minimalist bummer poetry. Take this bit from “A Stupid Song for Stupid Me,” which singer Johnny Clarke yelps with voice-cracking intensity:
and so every night
i’ll try to write a song you might like
but i know i’m not good enough
so i’ll smash my dreams and my guitar
to save myself from one more
stupid song and broken heart
The entire album is like that, a high-energy good time until you listen closer. Fun becomes catharsis, making a loud noise to drown out the pain. You might not expect pathos in a song called “SHIT NITE,” but it’s there if you listen close enough.
Ask them about it, though, and the mischief returns. Clarke says the album tackles “the life, death, emotions, and feelings of our deceased rat, Jerry.” Hence the title: Jerry. They’d clearly be the last people to take this album seriously – but someone should. Hear for yourself below.