Relative newcomers to the music scene, Be Your Own Pet are in a number of ways an unlikely and unforeseen force in indie rock. The songs on this record blast out of the chute like FA-18s roaring off the deck of an aircraft carrier. There is none or almost no space between tracks. On first listen, one thinks there’s no way they can sustain this. It’s too mad, too frenetic, and too relentlessly “throttle wide open.” And by record’s end, one is beside oneself muttering, “How did they do that?!” Talk about your “shock and awe.”
For those who caught their sets at CMJ (2004) or SXSW (2005) this is old news. At the time of the CMJ show the median age of the band was 16 — now they're at the wizened age of 18, one member is 17.
Precocious upstarts, mischievous pranksters, completely whacked but completely all there, menacing, and hooky. But not when, where or the way you expect. Maniacal, sinister, playful, coy (if coy is even possible at this breakneck pace!), relentless. They have opened for the likes of Electrelane, Le Tigre, and most recently Sonic Youth. This is their first full-length release and it is on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label.
At times the lyrics seem reminiscent of “naïve rock” lyricists such as Half Japanese (Jad and David Fair) or Daniel Johnston, except singer Jemina Pearl is some female Jello Biafra and the band is Black Flag. Her vocal delivery can be rapid-fire hellcat or sweet and dreamy. The sophistication of this band musically is astounding, and they sound very tight. The way they play together sounds as though they have been together for, well, as many years as they’ve been alive. Frankly, my mind is blown. I keep putting on this disc and thinking, “WTF?!”
This record is barely contained beautiful, delirious, raging, racing, ass-kicking chaos captured on a record. At certain moments like the opening of track 6, Adventure, it seems that the pace is slowing slightly, but that’s just the band revving up for another assault. The pace on this record is relentless from one track to the next. Best to just put this on and fasten your seatbelts. The only slightly slower track is the 12th one, October, First Account, but the irony and playfulness make it merely a respite before the dive back into the fray for the full-throttle barn burner, Love Your Shotgun.
The guitar work is spot on. In addition to addictive hookiness there are also compelling off kilter bits of crunchy, dissonant guitar scramble. And they are not arbitrary; they are ingeniously employed here and there to make what might be straight up punk into rock virtuosity and freshness. Jamin Orall’s drumming is riveting. He attacks the drum kit like a wild animal, an incredibly precise, spontaneous and musical wild animal, that is.
Be Your Own Pet are from Nashville, and some or all members were schoolmates at Nashville School of the Arts. The members of this accomplished, promising band are Jemina Pearl (vocals), Jonas Stein (guitars), Nathan Vasquez (bass) and Jamin Orall (drums). Each member of this band has parents who are prominent players in the Nashville and national music scene. Is it hereditary or environment? Or are these people just freaks of nature? Whatever the case, this is a band to watch. And I dare you to listen to Be Your Own Pet and not get addicted.