Why is everyone in such a row about Vampire Weekend? Those niceniks never hurt anybody, whereas Be Your Own Pet leader Jemina Pearl, in her short career, has already threatened to wait by your locker with knives, drown you in the bog, and smash cake in your six-year-old’s face. Guitarist Jonas Stein once bragged about getting stoned enough to forget Christmas Eve. There’s YouTube footage of bassist Nathan Vasquez tying people to railroad tracks. And you thought a few sailing enthusiasts from Columbia were a menace?
Alas, U.S. listeners will have to hit the Internet to hear that knife-fight track, “Becky.” Against the band’s wishes, Ecstatic Peace’s parent company, Universal, has cut that and two other tracks (“Black Hole” and “Blow Yr Mind”) for their—ahem—violent content, and robbed saner listeners of essential components from what may prove the year’s best rock record. (You can hear all three tracks on XL’s international version.) The censorship’s a little suspect from the bankers behind Akon, of whom it would be a gross understatement to say that he makes no secret of his past as a former armed robber. And in a marketing environment where the majors pretty much beg for legal record sales like alms, it’s hard to imagine Be Your Own Pet’s youngish audience dropping dollars for an incomplete album. Even casual listeners will turn their noses up at outside factors affecting quality control.
Not that quality is a problem here. Be Your Own Pet’s self-titled 2005 debut was such a jaw-dropping feat of supersonic youth, it’s easy to fantasize that with a real label owner, it could’ve been a smash. (Ever permissive in his middle age, Ecstatic Peace chief Thurston Moore might’ve discovered Nirvana, but he sure didn’t mass-market them.) Thankfully, if anything differentiates the terrific Get Awkward from its hardly inauspicious predecessor, it’s that this one may be even less complicated. Whereas the debut made room for actual relationships and a couple of headlong jams, this is a tighter, blunter assault, affording Pearl only just enough room to summarize B-movie plots or super-soak society. Boredom’s her only fear—or, as she puts it, “getting stuck in a black hole.” In her great band’s dream marriage of agit-squall Kathleen Hanna and blunt-force Tony Iommi, she has nothing to worry about. Except for “hot dog mustard in my hair.” Here’s hoping label bullshit won’t add to her woes.