Hunx and his Punx have turned bitter. On their first album, Too Young To Be In Love they wrote catchy, girl group-inspired tunes, this album draws more from gross-out punk bands like the Lunachicks or the early Donnas records. If we were to use John Waters movies as metaphors, To Young To Be In Love is Cry Baby and Street Punk is Female Trouble or Pink Flamingos. Its raw, snotty, vain, and most of all divisive. I love it’s trashy elements, but my Mom would probably want something less noisy.
This change may have been caused by the departure of three of the Punx, leaving vocalist a burgeoning gay icon Seth Bogart, bassist and singer Shannon Shaw, and deadpan guitarist Erin Emslie to put together an album. It might be a reaction to their rising fame. Where before Hunx and His Punx felt like a queer secret with their campy singles and explicit album covers, Lovers lane was so well crafted that it landed on many indie rock top lists, giving the band wider exposure and mainstream press, like Hunx in GQ . Maybe this is their Nirvana style reaction to fame, and likewise they might be hoping this album will scare away some casual fans.
This is the punkest Hunx and his Punx have been on record. They always had a raw edge to them in songs like “Bad Boy”, but now they’ve chosen to ramp up the distortion and up the tempos: only two of the songs are longer then two minuets. These hard songs come with increased political baggage, in the style of riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill. While before the subversion in their music was the fact that Seth Bogart was a gay man singing songs styled after 50’s and 60’s girl groups, here the politics are more up front. As I talked about here, “Don’t Call Me Fabulous” is an anthem for young queers that are sick of getting pigeonholed as “the sassy gay friend”. “Bad Skin” is the first song I’ve ever heard of a gay male singing about how unsatisfied he is with his appearance.
Occasionally their are missteps. While I would love to read into “Everyone’s a pussy (fuck you dude)” as a response to patriarchal culture labeling gay dudes and women as weak and therefore “pussies”, it could also be viewed as standard I hate everyone styled rant. The song’s bottle rocket-like energy is thrilling, but it’s a shame that the band didn’t expand on what they meant instead of repeating the title for thirty seconds. Ditto for “Don’t Call Me Fabulous”. The half-baked “Rat Bag” would of been much more suited to a thirty second spurt.
Fortunately these raw moments are balanced out with a variety, with various tempos and Shannon and Seth sharing an equal share of the vocals .Songs like “I’m coming back” and “street punk” sound effortlessly dangerous and cool, and deserved to be blared while riding around wearing sunglasses with your best girlfriends . The high point is easily “You Think You’re Tough”, with Shannon showcasing everything that is good about her soulful yet gritty tone, moving from sounding disdainful to smitten by the song’s end. Bogart also manages to sneak a few campy moments into the mix: “I was Born Blonde” and “It’s Not Easy” treat their material with a knowing wink. Songs like “Mud in Your Eyes” have the classic sound of Hunx and His Punx: Phil Spector working out of John Waters Basement. While sometimes harsh and derivative, the campy fun and Shannons Shaw’s vocals make this an essential listen for fans and anyone who still feels like a teenage misfit.
Both “Bad Skin” and “You Think Your Tough” are available for free download either above or on the Hardley Art Records soundcloud.