Suck Fony

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In the 2000 hit "Teenage Dirtbag," Wheatus' Brendan B. Brown distills with salty sweetness the simultaneous adolescent head trips of falling in love with a band and falling hard for a crush. His hard-luck hero dreams of cranking Iron Maiden with Noel, the unattainable hottie from gym class. "She don't know what she's missing," he says; "She doesn't give a damn about me," he also says. But in a turnaround worthy of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," Noel reveals her own loneliness to "Teenage Dirtbag"'s hero, and offers him two tickets to a Maiden paradise. "She's walking over to me," he marvels. "How does she know who I am?" But it's true. "Come with me Friday," she tells him. "Don't say maybe," and the track's sugar-drenched grunge guitars kick in behind the harmonies. If you were wondering what happened to Wheatus since that single, Suck Fony's word-jumble title should give you an idea -- squabbles with Sony over the follow-up to "Dirtbag" and their debut LP put Wheatus in a bitter holding pattern. But 2005's Fony is a remedy -- it features the recordings originally made for that follow-up, as well as a few extras, and it's entirely self-released. (Via the band's own imprint in the U.K. and PayPal domestically.) Part of Brown's songwriting charm is his knack for aligning lyrical irectness with brightly-toned melodies, and in this Fony does not disappoint. "Freak On," the breakup song "Lemonade" ("Just tell me his name/Just tell me you didn't get laid in our bedroom..."), and "Song That I Wrote When You Dissed Me" are peppy blends of bitter pills, cynical humor, and simplistic but entirely effective melodies; the latter is a hyper cocktail of synth pop and the New Pornographers. Brown's endearing, oddly pitched whine leads on every song; "Fairweather Friend" and "Anyway" offer more kicky keyboards, sarcastic lyrics, and soaring choruses; and the band's formula as applied to the Pat Benatar classic "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" is both effervescent and punchy. That it's an obvious tell-off to their former label gives the cover even more grit.

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