|The Vandals - Hollywood Potato Chip|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Thursday, 24 June 2004|
Anyone who has ever tried to break into the movie business has probably picked up a copy of the industry trade publication Daily Variety. On the cover of the new Vandals album, Hollywood Potato Chip, the band’s logo is done on this same distinct green front as the Daily Variety font and the picture on the cover is a spoof of the famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood. Ironically, the Vandals are anything but “Hollywood” with their non-sell out style and unapologetically goofball lyrics. This is fun music played by four guys who love living the life of indie rockers and have no aspirations to cross over to mainstream success. The band has been at it since 1982, when they released an E.E. on Bad Religion’s Epitaph Records. Many albums and a few labels later, they are still going strong, putting out records at their own pace with 100% creative control and no pressure to score a big radio hit. While not as funny as their last album, Internet Dating Super Studs, Hollywood Potato Chip has some downright hilarious songs. On “My Neck, My Back,” vocalist Dave Quackenbush sings about those few unfortunate (or fortunate) souls who have made a life for themselves by faking an injury then go to court to try to make a living off milking their faux injuries. On “Manimal,” the Vandals try to make a case for the piggish behavior of guys who just can’t control themselves when a pretty girl walks by. “Designed by Satan” is a musical ode to the Ouija Board. They poke fun of the fact that a major toy company has made available a game that supposedly lets children tap into spirits from beyond the grave.
One look at the band’s bios and you will see that everyone in the Vandals was destined to be a punk rocker. All hailing from the Orange County/Long Beach area of southern California, these dudes are the epitome of beach/punk culture. They love hanging out with good friends, eating good fast food and kicking it on the couch watching good quality TV comedies in between band practice sessions. They crystallize this laid-back lifestyle on the track “Don't Make Me Get My Fat & Lazy Ass Off This Couch.”
All joking aside, this band is filled with some hard-working guys, as bassist Joe Escelante actually co-owns the band’s label Kung Fu Records with Vandals guitarist Warren Fitzgerald. Like Spinal Tap, the band has had a steady rotation of drummers. In the current lineup, drummer Josh Freese, who also is the current drummer for A Perfect Circle, handles the stick work for Hollywood Potato Chip. You might think punk rockers are lazy guys who don’t have day jobs and have no work ethic, but The Vandals are one of the hardest-working bands in indie music.
In an interesting musical choice, the Vandals pay homage to Freddy Mercury by doing a cover of Queen’s song “Don't Stop Me Now.” I had heard the original only in passing, as it wasn’t one of the biggest Queen songs and there are undoubtedly kids out there who will think this is an original Vandals song, since they have taken it and given it their own hard-edged sound but the respect for Queen’s music comes across in this version. It’s obvious that this was a cover by four Queen fans.
The funniest song on Hollywood Potato Chip is “Christian or Canadian” with Dave poking fun of Christian rock/rap crossover bands. He never gives specific examples of the bands that he’s making fun of, but P.O.D. and Creed are the two bands that I think of as he sings “It couldn't be worse/From chorus to verse/It sounds like Korn but a little bit worse.” The Creed dig comes with the lyric “He's wearing a sweater, like '98 Vedder/But it's 2002, and the song could be better.”
If you are into the punk bands that still haven’t crossed over to huge mainstream success like NOFX or Bad Religion, then you are probably already a fan of The Vandals. They have quite a solid underground following and even if Green Day and The Offspring are more you cup of tea, you will probably enjoy The Vandals. The sound quality is passable, but I didn’t expect to be sonically wowed by a punk record. It’s just goofy fun music that doesn’t have quite the same amount of humor that their last record had, but it is a good summer record that you can blast in your car as fall rolls around. With The Vandals’ Hollywood Potato Chip, you can keep that summer party vibe going all year long.