Garrison - Be A Criminal/Teenage Fanclub - Howdy

Be A Criminal

Teenage Fanclub
Thirsty Ear

Blisteringly hot days like these (the heat index is at a generous 105° as I write this in my fan-ventilated room) make me question what I am doing on unemployment, when I can be sitting in an air-conditioned office performing futile tasks. Water cooler chat aside, I’ll stick close to my stereo and ask myself how these two records can share page space, let alone share listening time in the same sitting? I mean, the revered Teenage Fanclub alongside these post-hardcore upstarts from Boston who call themselves Garrison? Let’s be generous and examine the records–perhaps we all have a little bit to learn.

Garrison is an outfit of four young Bostonians who attempt to pull off the epic rock and roll caper with Be a Criminal. The album’s song titles are arranged in a peculiar order: 1. Recognize an Opportunity, 2. Choose a Weapon, 3. Know the Locale, 4. Focus, Focus, Focus, 5. Commit, Commit, Commit. Perhaps you can already see where it is going. The song titles are a prescription for what is needed to pull off the underhanded deed. The record’s harrowing pace, does not let up from the start. It moves along well-tread punk-rock freeways, occasionally decelerating at for big rock hooks as on "Know the Locale’, the chilling "Commit, Commit, "the chorus rings of an ominous conscience ringing "We Will Not Last Much Longer," and the dramatic ‘Cover the Tracks with Cash.’ Hell, there’s even time to take a nervous break with the interlude, ‘catch your breath and have a cigarette." These guys seem to think they know what they’re dealing in, and aren’t afraid to state the result in the closer, "Accept What You’ve Done, Accept Who You Are"—"A passed on culture less livable with all the sights but not the taste." The Garrison chaps are indeed young Turks with something to prove, if only to themselves and their constituency of bored kids who, like me, are sweltering in the heat and have nothing to do this summer, especially with an already crappy economy not letting up and when the available work is such shit. It’s an ambitious project. Dangerous if taken too seriously. The danger lurks on all sides, artistically, morally and personally.

But why must they flirt with destruction at so young an age? At least that’s what I hear myself thinking that’s our beloved Scots, Teenage Fanclub, would have to ask about such attempts at grandeur through their album, Howdy! And why not listen to the group of lads who, since the mid to late eighties, have put out one pop-rock gem after another, and have pretty much seen their share of success? Teenage Fanclub offer a humble corrective to Garrison’s grandiose ambitions; their humility brought on by years of cutting records, touring, and the ups and downs of success. Put next to Garrison, Teenage Fanclub are forthright, even repentant, with songs admitting of loss and uncertainty, such as "I Need Direction," a perfect piece of pop craftsmanship whose opening notes summon the spirit of Love and the Byrds, and "I Can’t Find My Way Home."

Where Garrison use their punk and metal influences to lay bare the more sinister elements within us, the ecstatically inviting Howdy!, exposes our most tender vulnerabilities Not our cruelly darker elements, but those very tender bits of humanity that seek consolation. "Dumb Dumb Dumb" is such a number. Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley swap vocal and lead duties to give the record varied voices, each bringing their own songs to the table, sometimes ecstatic "The Town and the City," other times understated "If I Never See You Again," and the wildly devotional "The Sun Shines from You." In so doing, they give us a glimpse of a tight group of friends who over a cool drink on the porch, especially in days like these, tell the young ones in Boston, "No need to be so aggressive, life is long, and it’ll kick you in the ass without you trying to reach so far…Life is hard enough anyway, celebrate the little moments, happy or sad."

It’s just what I need. In an age where kids and grown-ups have little to say to each other face-to-face, sometimes all we’re left with are little fragments such as these to put together on ungodly hot days and parse as much meaning out of them is possible. And meaning is what we, my friends, seek in life. Correct?