Way too many people have wasted way too much time debating what is and what is not punk music. Pep Squad aren't rebelling against anything. They don't seem to be anti-any establishment. They have some songs that are certainly "uptempo," but nothing that anyone, even your big-band loving grandma, would consider blazing speed. They don't wear studded-clothing or iconoclastic hairstyles.
In fact, they look like this:
Wait, let me see if I can find a tougher picture...
Oh crap, they've got wool caps on now. Okay, let me try one more time...
Oh, now they've gone full-kitten! You never go full-kitten! I give up!
* * *
It's all in the diametrically opposed feelings they somehow infuse into every second of No Doy!
"We are very earnest, and yet, at the same time, we absolutely do not care," they seem to be saying with every note. David Loti, who introduced me to the band when we DJ'd together in the early 00's, described their sound in a recent conversation leading up to this review, as "anti-musical," which is somehow true, and yet Pep Squad display nearly flawless pop instincts, as well as the ability to follow them. This is not a band that makes sense, and this is why they only released two full lengths of original material, then promptly broke up. Back when Dave told me I should give them a listen (we had both their albums in our prodigious show CD-binders), I followed his advice, and fell promptly in love with the band. The attitude of the music was so perfect--they had funny lyrics, but they weren't a joke band, they seemed rebellious, and yet they weren't rebelling against anything. I tried to introduce Pep Squad to some of my pop-punk loving friends, but they could not comprehend what they were hearing. Where were the Fat Wreck-style drum beats? Some of the songs are about girls, but they're not whining about girls, or even trying to win them over. In fact, half the time, a girl is actually singing! What's up with that? And it's the frontman's sister? And they share guitar duties? What kind of a band is this?!
Listening to Pep Squad with the 2020's looming ahead, I still derive the same pleasure from their music that I did fifteen years ago. I think I could at least assign them a genre now if someone held a gun to my head (which is always what is happening when I am writing these reviews).
This music is indie rock. The vocalist doesn't have the strongest voice, and the music is raw and unpolished, but well-played, and well written. Nobody really sounds like this now, as much as nobody really sounded like this in 1998 and 1999. I like it very much.
Speaking of radio, the last song on my last show was the last song on this album, "Open." It's a dual portrait of an aspiring couple, and it includes a favorite lyric of mine,
"His favorite film is Clear and Present Danger, and Die Hard 1, and Die Hard 2, and Die Hard 3, and Die Hard 4." In 1998, when No Doy! was released, there were only three Die Hard films. Die Hard four came out nine years later. That about sums up this album.
1998 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Angel 3:46
2. Barbapoppa 2:01
3. Bug-Nug 3:50
4. Hot 4:10
5. Jamie's Kisses 2:47
6. Never Netherlands 2:19
7. Sooper Trooper 1:57
8. Fish Eyes 3:05
9. Bored Out of My Gourd/Paper Doll 2:29
10. Open 2:46