Episode 3 (Lookout/Panic Button)
by Morgan Coe
Has it already been a year since the last Lookout Records promotional loss leader? It seems like only yesterday I was reviewing Episode 2, but here I am staring down the barrel of Lookout! Freakout: Episode 3. In the previous installment, our heroes were beset by bland “rock” on the one hand, and equally bland “pop” on the other, but this time around the real phantom menace is a combination of the two: The Washdown, The Oranges Band, Yesterday’s Kids, One Time Angels, and The Smugglers are Hives cover bands, but without the funny accents. The testosterone and jangle levels vary a little, but you’re getting essentially the same well-posed rock-in-quotes song over and over.
Of course, these are just the new bands. I had high hopes that with the benefit of my previous review, the Lookout! Freakout veterans would be able to pull themselves together in order to salvage last year’s performance. Unfortunately, Bratmobile‘s copy of Lollipop must’ve gotten lost in the mail, because “I’m in the Band” is basically a straight-up Go-Go’s rewrite. The same goes for The Pattern and the Enemies, who’ve managed to become even more affected than they were the first time around. The Queers track is still laughably cute compared to the stuff they did when they were good, and Ben Weasel has stepped up with yet another bouncy love song. Ted Leo sounds like Billy Bragg and Cheap Trick joining forces to cover Thin Lizzy, and American Steel have brought along their doppelganger and side project, Communiqué.
Finally, we’ve got a few ringers. Pretty Girls Make Graves‘ ode to the danceability of their own vapid new-wave rehash would be simply embarrassing if some of them hadn’t been in the Murder City Devils. On the other hand, Complete Disorder‘s track is a time capsule (literally: This song came out on The Thing That Ate Floyd in 1988) from a time when Lookout put out “compilations” filled with “punk bands” – don’t let the fast drumming and lack of ironic slogans scare you. Meanwhile, back in the 21st Century, The Cost take a solid crack at the mid-’90s we-like-weird-drumbeats-and-Hellbender-records thing, while Moral Crux take a stand for catchy, political pop-punk. Both bands have energy and passion to spare, especially compared with the self-absorbed hipsterism on display through the rest of the Lookout! Freakout series. But let’s end on a positive note: The Mr. T Experience‘s “My Stupid Life” is a huge improvement over last year’s “Mr. Ramones.” So that’s one point for progress, if you’re keeping score at home. At this rate, Lookout! Freakout: Episode 14 should be pretty rockin’.