School Shooter is a manic-savant. When he isn’t pummeling his fans with suicidal antagonism, or being questioned by the feds for his choice of band name, he’s recording something. Loud, hook-ridden lo-fi rippers are posted almost daily to his small-but-hungry audience.
While the music bears a stronger resemblance to The Ramones, the garage-punk spirit of Jay Reatard is alive and well in School Shooter. It is the prolific work of a madman, digging at the roots of rock ’n’ roll with a rusty knife. There, he lays before us the desiccated heart of the genre. Like Reatard before him, Shooter understands what made rock good, and works to resuscitate it — one minute-long blast at a time.
The Ramones comparison is lazy but apt: this is punk before punk got AIDS. There is no politicized angst-sublimation, no teenage preaching. This man can sing, and harmonies are being made. Like Rocket to Russia, the music was recorded on a shoe-string budget. But it isn’t the lo-fi wiener-rock of Guided by Voices, this is rock as God intended: loud, driving, and melodic.
Though Shooter forgoes the screaming rage of Jay Reatard’s early work, you can find that same hateful spirit here — a flagrant, all-encompassing disdain for this world. That attitude, married to humorous, depressive lyrics and ’77 punk sounds, sounds fresh and new. It’s a specific combination, never before amalgamated, that he has delivered here.
While track highlights fail to do justice to the whole, some songs deserve mention. For those unlucky souls born at the wrong end of the millennial generation, the songs FTW, NVM, and BAD VIVES all get to the heart the issue. Imagine /r9k/ in a leather jacket and you’ll start to get the picture. Another song, TEARS, drops the distortion pedal for brief moments to nail-down a real heartbreaker. It is one of the only tracks in Shooter’s catalog to do this, and it works fantastically.
This is worth mentioning: taking the time to decipher the lyrics of School Shooter is key to enjoying him. The lyrics are great, but like any classic punk album, some poetic gems are crushed beneath the weight of the properly blown-out mix. It’s a genre feature and should be appreciated as-is. Just know that there are jokes and miseries to be discovered here, waiting for a careful listener to unearth them. Once internalized, you will find yourself singing these songs involuntarily for days. The hooks are strong, and they will get you.
Life isn’t easy for the young people out there, and if you don’t realize that, School Shooter is here to blast it through your thick skull. Here, no truths are glossed-over in the maintenance of our fever-dream. Like our fallen heroes Lou Reed, Jay Reatard, and Joey Ramone, Shooter lays all of his pain out on the table. There is no pose. This kind of thing is rare these days and deserves your time.
Release date? 9/11.