Baby Fat: Act 1
In their near three decades, Screeching Weasel have graced the punk scene for better or worse. With sonic, Ramones-esque epitomes like Boogadaboogadaboogada! Screeching Weasel influenced countless bands and fueled the 90s pop-punk sound. Battling agoraphobia and vile arguments with everyone in the punk community, Ben Weasel has often searched for consistent band members. In 2011, they released First World Manifesto with Fat Wreck Chords. Three days later during SXSW, Weasel punched two women at their show. The band quit, including long time guitarist Danny Vapid, shows were cancelled, and his career funeral was foreseeable. It seemed to be the true end for Ben Weasel.
But damn, this fella is resilient. So while this is by no means a debut album, it’s something anew rising from the grave. Is it emerging as a horrific zombie that we all need to run from, or an endeared pet that we’re thrilled to have back at our side?
Ben found divine inspiration through opera in recent years, and this new album (funded by Indiegogo) is a rock version devoted to Italian opera Rigoletto. Sleazy characters are struggle with themselves and their family as horrific shit happens all around them. There are tracks relying on the familiar nasal, snotty Weasel sound, but what’s standout on this oddity are the untraditional-to-punk ventures. Industrial sounds drift through pianos in off-tempo discord on “I’m a Lonesome Wolf.” It’s a very moody album (a rock opera after all) mixing surf riffs in with threatening bass drum-laden crescendos. Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves plays a scummy lead protagonist (Baby Fat). This is a great dichotomy as in real life Weasel has become a religious man in recent years while Blag stands for pure, unadultered carnal living and atheism. Baby Fat’s daughter Poveretta (Kat Spazzy of Australia’s The Spazzys) provides a theological outlook and powerful voice.
I honestly had low expectations for this album initially, but the Weasel family has pushed itself into very new territory. It’s a challenging take on the medium for sure. While a handful of bands are prepping storylines for the stage, this may be the first opera in punk rock, and is a creative leap from the Weasel aesthetic. It’s not an album we’ll be blaring across the speakers all summer, but it’s an admirably unique effort. (Scott Murry)
Purchase Baby Fat: Act 1 here.