Bam Bam Bam!
Joke bands grow up; it happened to Spinal Tap, and it happens in the real world, too. Houston's own retro-popsters Junior Varsity started out basically as a haphazard, elaborate joke in cheerleader outfits and letter jackets, but with Bam Bam Bam! they've finally become a real live "band"-type band. The songs are catchy as hell, short and sweet, and played with reckless abandon, reminiscent of '50s/'60s-ish pop-rock -- where a lot of J.V.'s older material seemed to aim more for humor than for cool, catchy pop songs, there's a ton more of the latter here, although it's still spiced with tongue-in-cheek sassiness (see proto-punk vamp "So Great" and the sarcastic "Mark Lochridge Twist"). Those J.V. kids have assimilated all their garage-pop influences, and it's a credit to their collective songwriting ability that their originals are absolutely indistinguishable from the covers of "Dance, Franny, Dance" and "Can't Take It No More." Heck, they even try their hand at some bona fide surf rock with the fiery, Man or Astro-man?-ish "Switch Sides," probably largely courtesy of new guitarist Rebecca (old guitarist Sean McManus is 'gone-ola,' according to the liner notes, killed in a bizarre dancing accident).
The songs zip along, propelled by drummer Matt's speedy, spare playing, and buoyed up by the voices of all three band members -- Rebecca's husky voice counterbalances bassist/singer Kim's high-pitched cheerleader chirp pretty much perfectly, and we even occasionally get to hear Matt's nicely smoke-scratched voice on a couple of tracks. Overall, this is a fine pop album from any era. How can you beat an album that talks about going to the package store for liquor, the guy who puts up the pins at the bowling alley, eating at Poppa Burger, and the virtues of Lafayette, Louisiana? (JH)
(Peek-a-Boo Records -- P.O. Box 49542, Austin, TX. 78765; http://www.peekaboorecords.com/)