- boys cruise, Jerry
(Sleepyhead Music Group, digital)
I confess to having only seen boys cruise once, at a Battle of the Bands contest earlier this year. That night, the young rock group duked it out with a few other local groups to nab a slot at this year's Waking Windows festival. I was one of the judges who awarded them that prize. The quartet's unconventional performance won me over. Sketch-like vignettes connected the songs in their frenzied set, including a moment when the band members switched clothes, briefly occupying the stage in their undies.
I don't know whether what I witnessed that night was the norm for boys cruise. But the agitation and urgency that drove those interstitial segments onstage, as well as the music itself, reappear throughout Jerry, the group's debut LP — allegedly named for its deceased pet rat, BTW. The late rodent was the group's fifth J name; the others are Johnny, Jack, Jake and Joey (Clarke, Parker, Scott and Rolo, respectively). Thrashing power chords and Clarke's broken, agonized vocals convey the constant grind of finding your footing in unstable times.
"ALIEN DAWG," the first proper song after the engine-revving intro "stuck in the house," is a sweaty mess of riot-rock chanting and sexual chaos. "Down on the couch with your boyfriend / But his lips look so / Nice and sweet and pale and soft / I want them on mine / I want them on yours / I wanna watch like a fucking perv," Clarke and co. yell. It sets the album off on precarious footing. (Also, does it reference the Addison County rock band Aliendog?)
Boys cruise's varied influences — classic and second-wave pop-punk, surf-rock, and doo-wop — provide good fodder across the album's 13 tracks. These touchstones occasionally manifest literally, such as the opening riff from "American Breakfast," which reimagines the classic guitar hook from Blink-182's "Dammit." Mostly, boys cruise are more subtle than that. The late '50s prom-night pastiche of "Don't You Cry (in Front of Me)" conjures the era rather than any one particular golden oldie — and distances itself further when the track nearly combusts at its midpoint.
"A Stupid Song for Stupid Me," a sincere, bleeding-heart centerpiece, is about as raw as Jerry gets. Clarke, scraping the rafters of his vocal ceiling, sings of smashing his guitar to save himself from "one more stupid song and broken heart," while his bandmates create a jagged din that swallows him up at the song's bitter end. It's somehow soft and hard, highlighting the back-and-forth thinking we often encounter when we're at our lowest.
Boys cruise aren't the only local band reimagining various eras of punkdom. But their madcap creativity and uninhibited spirit mark them as one of the freshest and most noteworthy voices to emerge in 2019.
Jerry is available at boyscruise.bandcamp.com. Boys cruise perform on Tuesday, October 29, at Radio Bean in Burlington.