In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Sometimes, I just need something light and fun from my punk rock. Sometimes, I just need the Vandals.”
Picture it, Brisbane Australia at the turn of the millennium, a young Pete Laurie gets obsessed with Bad Religion, and very quickly sees that obsession spread to their So-Cal contemporaries. Snot nosed teens in the 80s who kept their bands together long enough to perfect their craft and become punk rock elder statesman in the 2000s. What that meant was literally dozens of records to catch up from bands a like NOFX, Guttermouth and The Vandals. While Bad Religion tackled the big issues, Guttermouth focused on giving society an adolescent middle finger long after their own adolescence were over, and NOFX graduated from finger giving to tackling big issues. But The Vandals focused more on keeping it light, fun and tight. With a constantly changing line up over their first few years and albums, things began to solidify with Fear of Punk Planet.
The Vandals have always specialised in the mundanity of life. They’re not system fighting, issue driven, machine against raging punk rockers. They’re much more interested in giving the small moments of everyday life a kick of punk energy. Like having a crush on a local Vietnamese pizza delivery girl in a song like Pizza Tran. It’s A.D.D, frantic pace never gets in the way of its punk edge. An edge that still somehow manages to shine through on the mix of glam rock, hair metal and disco that is The Rodge.
New addition to the Vandals at this stage, guitarist Warren Fitzgerald shows off his virtuosic chops as he shreds his way through Hey Homes. It’s what things would sound like if Eddie Van Halen joined a punk band. The result of The Vandals doing a cover of Summer Lovin’ is as gimmicky and tossed off as you assume with their spin on consisting of nothing more than upping the tempo, some palm muted power chords and some cheap lyric replacements.
Playing up to all of the genre tropes of angry punk rock, Dave Quackenbush’s tongue, which is constantly in his cheek, is perfect on the piss pull that is Anti. Aggressive on the surface, it only helps to heighten the sarcasm behind lyrics like, “Cuz I’m anti-antiseptic. I’m anti-antipasto. I’m anti-anticipation. And I’m anti-antichrist. But I’m pro-prophylactic. I’m pro-propane gas. I’m pro-propaganda. And I’m pro-antipathy”.
Fitzgerald shines again as his guitar drives the Vandals’ take on the death metal that is Small Wonder, before Fear of Punk Planet wraps thongs up with Phone Machine. With its spoken word intro courtesy of the dulcet tones of Kelsey Grammer (apparently procured through a cocaine dealer shared by the actor and someone connected to the band), Phone Machine closes things out on a chaotic note that sounds like the Vandals letting a little loose after perpetrating so much precision over the preceding dozen tracks.
At this stage, it’s been over a decade since the release of the Vandals last studio album. While they still tour sporadically (I was lucky enough to see them last year), this band is clearly a side project or hobby for all members these days. That thought bums me out at least once a week when a Vandals song pops up on random on my phone or iPod. And listening to a Vandals record top to bottom in one sitting for the first time in a long time, Fear of Punk Planet made that thought bum me out more than ever. I love angry punk rock with something to say, but sometimes, I just need something light and fun from my punk rock. Sometimes, I just need the Vandals.