With any luck, we'll never hear from them again.
If you haven’t already heard Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, you’re either deaf or dead. And if you have heard it, well, multiply it by ten and you’ve got a pretty good idea what the album sounds like. Power chords filched straight out of [I]Pop-Punk Made Easy[/I], over which a whiny-voiced nerd complains about being fucked over by girls (‘Hump’Em N’ Dump’Em’), the boss (‘Hey, Mr Brown’) and his own intractable nerdiness (‘Punk Ass Bitch’). For variety, there’s a cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’, and a song about wanting to be a gangster. It’s called ‘Wannabe Gangstar’, and it involves – oh joy! – some bad rapping.
This, apparently, is irony. If not here, then certainly in Long Island, where Wheatus formed and recorded their debut in singer Brendan B Brown’s suburban living room. The band spring from the same long, proud tradition as Weezer, Ween, Fountains Of Wayne and Blink-182 – that is, they’re having a laugh, they’re relentlessly self-deprecating, and occasionally they turn out something utterly irresistible (hence, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’).
Unlike their forerunners, however, Wheatus may ostensibly be attempting to make a grab at the college crowd but are actually aiming far lower. There are dumb sex jokes (“There’s a rocket built/It’s under my kilt/It’s going to blow you away” – ‘Sunshine’) and rampant misogyny (“Wouldn’t fuck ‘er for my country with a flag on her face and a stolen dick” – ‘Truffles’), but merely for ersatz shock value (that Parental Guidance sticker separates the men from the boys, you know). Musically, this is essentially teenybop punk-lite aimed straight at
As such, it’s not bad, and even seems to harbour an endearing ambition to sound like The Knack or – even better – Rick Springfield’s ‘Jesse’s Girl’ as sung by an asthmatic bully-magnet. A lot better than wanting to sound like yet another second-rate Green Day – which, ultimately, is what Wheatus are.
Much like a snotty little kid you have the misfortune to be related to, Wheatus are irritating as hell, but it’s difficult to detest them. ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, admittedly, is a funny, hooky evocation of an awkward adolescent crush, but it remains their one and only decent song. With any luck, we’ll never hear from them again.