Review: Be Your Own Pet’s “Get Damaged” EP

Jun 25, 2008 4:26pm

  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember my review in March of Be Your Own Pet’s album "Get Awkward." You may remember in my review that I criticized Universal for removing three tracks from the album because they were deemed too violent.  The album remained unaltered in England on the band’s British label, XL.  On June 24, these tracks finally saw U.S. release thanks to XL, as the “Get Damaged” EP.  They are also available digitally now, and total just over six minutes in length, but they really do complete the picture that Universal left unfinished.  “Becky” is a violent song, yes, but not without its pop charms.  As I stated in the earlier review, subject-wise the story is a gruesome tale of a girl wronged by her former B.F.F., who then kills her and goes to jail.  I can understand for a moment why Universal may have been nervous since it is about school violence, (“We’ll wait with knives after class,” sings leader Jemina Pearl.) but there is a lesson here when she ends up in “juvey” in “cell block D.”  Perhaps Universal was worried that they’d be attacked like Marilyn Manson was after Columbine.  When tragedy happens, it’s only natural to want to analyze the culture, but when you consider the more graphic records put out there with little thought, the fact that this (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) song was considered not worthy of release seems a little bit like a stretch.  Ugly subjects do exist.  Hiding from them and sheltering the youth from them is not always the answer.  There used to be a time when violent songs were huge hits and no one batted a lash. The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” is about a man who stabs a woman on a mountain and then gets hanged for his crime.  That’s one of their most famous songs.  Bobby Darin had a huge hit with “Mack the Knife,” complete with “scarlet billows.” There are a ton of traditional murder ballads which have been passed down from generation to generation.  Not to mention that Universal is the parent company of Interscope, the company Eminem is signed to.  Would the reaction to the song “Becky” be different if Jemina Pearl weren’t a twenty-year-old woman?  Does gender play a role?  Is there a double standard?  Universal did put a parental warning sticker on “Get Awkward.”  That should’ve been fine.  This track is basically the audio equivalent of the movie “Heathers.”  The sad thing is that the song also would have great pop potential if it weren’t about murder.  It’s one of the band’s most appealing tunes with its “Loco-motion”-like progression.  On “Get Awkward,” it would’ve been a highlight indeed.  The reason why “Black Hole” was excluded is a little less obvious.  It too would’ve been a highlight.  I’m guessing it’s the line “Let’s go and kill someone.”  But you can say that on the air.  Be Your Own Pet may all be really young, but their audience isn’t necessarily made up of impressionable youth.  They are really rough sounding, built from a combination of (real) punk, hardcore and “Riot Grrrl” movement influences.  A lot of teenagers may view this as noise. I have a feeling the band’s audience skews to older, harder-edged hipsters.  The Universal imprint they are signed to in the U.S. is Ecstatic Peace, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s label. Moore is the dictionary definition of “hard-edged hipster.” The third song on here is “Blow Yr Mind.” It is forty-four seconds of thrash, in which Pearl screams, “I just wanna blow Yr Mind!” Is this a threat?  It seems sort of vague.  Its elimination is really questionable.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote a paper about song-lyrics and whether they influence people’s actions.  I looked at a lot of cases in which music was blamed for violent acts.  Most famously, there was a case where two teens killed themselves after listening to “Stained Class” by Judas Priest.  My thesis stated that song lyrics don’t really cause people to do violent things. They have to want to commit violent acts in the first place.  There are many other issues at play.  If you were to play something violent for a well-rounded kid with a lot of guidance, (s)he would most likely take it at face-value as art and entertainment, not as a guideline.  The real problem we may have in this realm is a crisis in guidance.  This topic can be (and should be) debated endlessly.  XL’s release of “Get Damaged,” allows U.S. audiences to finally hear “Get Awkward” as it was meant to be.  All you have to do is put the tracks in the proper order and burn yourself a full copy.  Not only did Universal remove these three songs, but they then cannibalized “Get Awkward”‘s track order, moving tracks around.  This is the kind of thing record companies used to get away with in the sixties.  I thought those days were over.  I thought wrong.  The album plays much better as fifteen songs in the right order.  As a twelve song album, it was a great album.  Put together in its complete form it’s even better.  Universal should have just let well enough alone and let the parental warning sticker do its job.  It was on “Get Awkward” for a reason.  Leave it to Be Your Own Pet’s British label to restore a notion of free speech in the U.S.  There’s something ironic about that, especially when you consider that Be Your Own Pet are American!   

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