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CD Review: Jerk Bank "Full Tilt"


Four years later Jerk Bank's Full Tilt made it into my possession. "Are you kidding me? I don't do CD reviews from 2002," I wanted to say to tattooed frontman Steve Plum. But somehow I felt it might still be relevant as I realized the band was back into action. The Jerk Bank trio weaseled out of retirement for the Punk Aid show at El Mocambo last Thursday, hosted by The Groopies, and proved that they still had a decent fan-base who knew all the words. "We had a lot of fun tonight. You know, a lot of things happened and I was pissed for a while, but that's all gone and forgotten. These guys are still my friends and we still like writing music together," Steve tells me. But as a chronic busybody, don't be surprised if you see his other band King Minus on a bill somewhere soon.

Strengths:
Brendan McGarvey takes on the independently-operating Matt Freeman style bass lines to spice up the signature three-chord punk structure, while Joey Proulx maintains break-neck drumming. Joey is a straight drummer, loving his quick snare drum fills, throwing in cymbal clashes for dramatic effect. The collection echoes as much raw energy as Greenday's "Dookie" and takes my mind back to days of high school turmoil: breaking up, growing up and moving on.

I always liked how songs off Rancid's And Out Come The Wolves told specific stories of meeting life's challenges head-on, overcoming strife and of observing the fucked up world they saw around them. Full Tilt makes you feel like you're walking with the band around the neighborhood, hearing their frustrations and unwillingness to give up the struggle. "I lost another job but I won't let it kick me in the ass," Steve sings in Replay. In Bulletproof, parallels are drawn between fraying relationships and decaying homes. "Passin by the streets just fade away/Suburban homes seem to wither and decay / We were friends, what did we have to prove? / What makes you think that you're bullet proof?"

The beginning of "United" made me feel weird the first time I heard it. It's not that I intentionally look out for indie bands to rip off artists, but I often hear a melody that sounds exactly like something else. Jerk Bank plays off this snarkiness by including the same starting riff of The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop", even throwing in the "Hey Ho Let's Go!" before spinning off into a completely original song. Clever, clever boys.
[Similarly, at the show, they jokingly tried to pass off a cover of Op Ivy's "All I Know Is That I Don't Know Nothing" as "the first song they ever wrote" to catch the undiscerning listener off guard.]

"Replay" is pretty much the catchiest punk anthem ever. I dare you to try not to sing along, bop your head or raise your fist in the air. Guitars, drums and vocal hooks all unite into the perfect formula. After a few minutes, you'll be wondering why this never became a radio hit sensation like Social D's "Reach For The Sky".

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Weaknesses:
Most punk albums have the same weaknesses. "The songs all sound the same" or "they only use three chords the entire time" are popular objections. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you're looking for epic masterpieces or the next Led Zeppelin here, then you're a misguided dork. I won't dwell on it here because I don't think that sort of thing matters if you're looking for sincere emotion, high energy and substantial lyrical content.

However, I will mention that the spunky, pop punk guitar riffs in "Growing Pains" irritate me. The vocal edge reminds me of a KISS or Twisted Sister song... and that weirds me out. On second thought, the "don't need to grow" croon has the same melody as Rehab For Quitters' "leave me alone" [Slicked Back Hair]... and that weirds me out too.

Oh yeah, and "The Reason"... is a boring song.

Upcoming Show: June 24th @ Sneaky Dees

You Might Life If You're A Fan Of:
Greenday, Operation Ivy, Rancid, Social Distortion, Lagwagon, The Ramones.

Favorite Tracks:
1, 6, 7, 9, 13

Rating: 3.8 / 5

Jennn's CD Index:
1 - I'll give you $10 if you can make it through the whole CD
2 - I'm not a fan, but someone might like it somewhere
3 - There are a couple offbeat tracks but it's 90% ROCKIN
4 - This CD rocks my world in its entirety. Buy or die.
5 - Go see them live, support them, join the cult.


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