Punkest Band Around


Dear Suh: I really do not want this band on my tour no more. They cannot jam worth a damn on “Free Bird” at the end of the night, and the fiddle thing is scaring the hell out of my drunk bass player

—Yours, Ronnie

All right! You can turn in my Top 10 List thing already: my favorite music of the whole darn year is B*Witched’s “C’est la Vie” 12-inch, the 15 minutes on the back side. “CLV”‘s “Dog in the River” remix is xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo bubble-techno heaven, fast-galloping beat jumpkicked by mondo cool in-and-out vocals. And the “B*Witched Megamix” is the BOMB!: a seamless 7:00 medley of the second-, third-, and fourth-best cuts on their debut CD, capped by :50 of their darned fiddle jig. I heard it the first time at a (suburban) shopping mall—you should too!

Wait, it gets worse (for you, not me): they’re Irish (I yiyiyiyi!), two twin sisters founded the act, another girl’s a sister of some Boyzone (boy band) dork, they play instruments, “write” at least as much of their material as the Spice Girls, and the sisters flat-out state in print that they love poppy hoppy music and it is their mission in life! On Wednesday March 17, my VCR timer caught their Regis & Kathie Lee TV appearance, where their fiddle-jig “Let’s Go” finally illustrated what they use the fiddle for: they dance (the jigwhaddayacallit) to the darn thing! Well, now I understand.

Three straight debuted-at-#1 singles in England (never been done); their album entered Billboard in the U.S. at #38 two weeks ago, then jumped to #18 a week later. And they are warming things up for expected product from Aqua (killer act, the “Barbie Girl” goofballs from Sweden), Spice Girls (whatever, tho I could dig another movie), and (yuck, someone spank them, hard!) Hanson, in what will be the biggest kiddie-pop music year since 1966. (The Monkees went onto TV that fall.)

I kinda find the CD-single mix on “C’est la Vie” annoying (the 12-inch versions above are way, way fatter and infinitely more enjoyable, and the 45 mix sounds better on cheezy radio than CD for sure), but non-LP cut “Get Happy” is essential, a chirpy and utterly convincing redux of early ’70s Motown-bubblegum that I for one would not want to live without. As for the CD, the shiny plastic thingamajig that will probably sell a skadillion copies here just like overseas, the key track (right after hittoon “C’est la Vie”) is “Rev It Up”—Wow! I mean double wow!! This is as good as anything the kiddie Jackson 5 ever did. A monster bitchin’ hippy-hoppy-happy dance tune for the ages. Folks, just hearing the rhythms, the lyrics, and the fab lead vocal of this song makes me HIGH ON LIFE!

Dippy ballads “To You I Belong,” “Castles in the Air,” and so on should go away yesterday. A similar disease to the Britney Spears LP, which also has way too many slow, boring, Mariah/Whitney ballads twice over. But there is a gem buried amongst these dirge-bombs: “Never Giving Up,” a mid tempo hookathon with melodies/riffs real close to a great early ’80s Eddie Money song (like, say, “Shakin'”). Yowsa! (Or as the even fabber Aqua said two years back, “Calling Dr. Jones!”)

Anyway, I had an interview with the band all planned out, was gonna do it before their show in San Jose, questions written in big china marker on a string of computer paper: (1) You guys kick ass! Who wrote “Rev It Up”? (2) When you’re going to sing vocals on a super-poppy song (in the studio), is there anything special you eat, wear, focus on? (3) ???? (4) Hold up (one at a time) icon POP albums of past decades (Monkees, Archies with the cartoon cover, any good Abba, 1st Madonna, Debbie Gibson, aw what the hell, the Beatles with the poppiest sleeve photo—Beatles for Sale?) and have ’em hold up their hands (a hand count) as in YES or (no hand up) NO/DON’T KNOW/DON’T CARE. And that, sir, would be the shortest platinum-act interview in the history of this century. But I know how to work these things (having interviewed Fanny for Phonograph Record Magazine in the early ’70s); if old-guy-in-a-Razorback-cap and women’s pro bskb jersey (Charlotte #32, the awesome Andrea Stinson) has the wack red Razorback hog on his belt loop, and just one of those girls takes the bait, like “What is that??” the minute the four-minute interview is done, it’s photo-op, and Sir! You! Can! Bet! Madonna never put no Razorback pig on her head when she was cracking America! And that may well be the difference between this pop generation and that older one back in the ’80s… And actually, in the press kit somewhere, one B-girl did say some very on-target things about how she “loves pop music,” and yes done right it do make your feet do wacky things like dance! Now let’s go back in time and take out 500,000 hippies at Woodstock so the Archies can conquer the world that is rightfully theirs!

The interview never materialized… something got botched at the will call window. But one cool thing happened that wouldn’t have otherwise: These three middle-school girls hear me playing Korean-language girl pop (FIN.K.L., Diva, BabyVox, etc.) on my cassette player, come over and crack up asking questions about my basketball jersey and fake-o Spice Girls arm tattoos. Turns out one of them has a B*Witched Web page up ( theHocusPocusofBWitched) — what a hyper kid, probably about age 14—and is telling me she met them in Berkeley, and thought they were SOOOOO cool and SOOOOO nice. With manic fans like that, it’s easy to see why the age 6–12 and 13–16 baby booms (or is it the latter running the free PR and Web pages for the former?) are huge in the current music market. It’s also GREAT that the 6–12 age girls like GIRL singing groups (not lame schlock boy bands). There were a lot of slightly older teenagers at Daly City Music land’s kickass B*Witched in-store signing I went to, but definitely mostly all 6–14. (At least two exact Alex Mack lookalikes!) (I’m prejudiced ’cause I have an 11-year-old niece.) A few, like at those funny Green Day arena shows of 1995–96, were so tiny they might have been five. (Kindergarteners on skateboards…) Anyway, I would not have had firsthand interchange with a way hardcore fan if I’d had press clearance, gone straight in, etc. We both agreed that B*Witched singer Edele has a sneaky good lead voice that really grows on you.

So, to recap: I’ve had the 12-inch and CD-45 forever; the album program sequence 3/5/7/1/2 (18 min.) kills for bubblepop bonus quotient (check it out—why aren’t albums 20 minutes long???). You MUST listen to that sequence, it rocks. The 12-inch+CD B-side+CD sequence=the best damn 36 minutes of music of the year! Yup, I stand by every word (except for a couple I had to correct the spelling on). If annoying people (like, everyone over the age of 14, except myself) is the criterion of punkiness, then this is the punkest band around. With another batch of songs as strong (a batting average that would certainly be around .700 overall), I’d call B*Witched BEST DAMN BUBBLEGUM BAND OF ALL TIME (it’s okay to exaggerate to make a point, and hey, who was hyping the Monkees and Abba in their prime? Like, no one.) And lord knows this is gonna be THE YEAR OF BUBBLE GUM (a/k/a Bobby Sherman’s Revenge). (Hey, is that the first good Pazz & Jop poll header in decades or what?) Right on sisters! I hope this act sells 10 zillion records, goes on tour next fall with Britney Spears, and makes a movie with the Spice Girls called B*Witched and the Spice Girls Run Over Godzilla in the Spice Girls Bus.

You have to forgive my son, when he gets ahold of a Jolt cola he’s incoherent and out of control. And he never understood
Moby Dick, it sort of disoriented him forever. I told him: “Mikey! It’s about a WHALE! Forget the symbolism! It’s a FISH STORY!” But he wouldn’t listen, and his life has been a little wobbly ever since. (His five favorite rock bands of all time: Beatles, Kinks, Beach Boys, Green Day, and [!?!] Warrant [!?!].)

—Sincerely, Mike’s Mom

B*Witched play the Beacon Theater April 21 and April 27.