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.