I’m not really sure what punk music is. The first record I ever owned that I thought was punk was Dookie, which my Grandma Louise bought me for my eleventh birthday. It turns out, though, that Green Day is about as punk as my Grandma Louise. When I was in high school I got into the Ramones, and thought I was pretty damn cool — but apparently they were only punk until 1979. MTV says that Blink-182 is punk, but that doesn’t really rub me that right way.
The first time I listened to the Tourettes, Yale’s best-named all-girl band, the only thing I could think of was how damn punk it was. “Let’s get a small motel room, the kind that’s really cheap” or “Don’t say there’s nothing I believe in this world / I’ll believe in you for hours” are lyrics that wouldn’t be featured in Avril Lavigne songs. It’s hard to tell whether Life is Pretty is pure rock ‘n’ roll, like the Tourettes call it on the album’s intro, or straight-up punk, but I don’t think it really matters. I like this album. I like it a lot.
Life is Pretty, which lasts a whopping 30 minutes (and includes songs about spin-the-bottle, marriage, and someone who loves wearing pants) sounds like it was made for $50 in the basement of the bassist’s boyfriend — and it probably was. What gives the album its energy is a combination of the rawness of the Moldy Peaches with the girls-can-rock-too sensibilities of Sleater-Kinney or even the Go-Go’s. Like the Moldy Peaches, the Tourettes’ guitar-playing is ridiculously repetitive — and often out of tune, which is distinctly more annoying than hip. While the rest of the band is certainly competent, what really gives the Tourettes their energy is singer Caolan Madden ’02. On most of the tunes she doesn’t really sing out; instead, she chants her lyrics about boys’ inappropriateness. Somehow, though, it doesn’t really matter. When Madden does sing, on little ditties like “I don’t wanna Go to your party” or “This Summer Night is Full of Bees” the band is at its best. When she screams “RSVP, ASAP” on “Party,” for example, you really do want to.
When my roommate heard Life is Pretty he asked bluntly, “What IS this?” He wasn’t wondering, though, exactly what genre of punk or rock or punk-rock it fit into because he was confused about the Ramones’ place in history or MTV playing the Donnas. What he meant was that he hated the poor Tourettes. Apparently he’s not alone, though that’s OK. If the Tourettes cared what my roommate thought, they probably wouldn’t sing about the desire to wear pants. And really, isn’t that punk rock?