Album Reviews

Big Boys: Lullabies Help The Brain Grow/No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There’s Always A Seat! (Modern Classics/Light In The Attic)

 

bigboys

I want to be a problem
I want to cause a scene
I want to get reactions
And wake you from you dream
I don’t care if you don’t like it
Or you think that it’s the best
As long as you remember
Then we’re up with all the rest — “We Got Your Money”

With the opening verse of their second album, enigmatic Bad Boys frontman Randy “Biscuit” Turner laid down what would be his life’s mission statement: confront, disrupt, and entertain. He certainly did; a large, flamboyant and openly gay man, but more importantly, one of the first (if not the first) openly gay frontmen in hardcore punk, he was a trailblazer in a genre that was and is primarily male-dominated. Live, he had no problem confronting the audience, appearing in drag and taunting the audience. It was fun, of course, but it was serious fun.

Their second album, Lullabies Help The Brain Grow, was released in 1983, and it was a blast of in-your-face punk rock, often accentuated with a funk bass line that would soon be co-opted by Red Hot Chili Peppers. The songs are often heavily political, but never in a didactic way; instead, he’s preaching the message of self-empowerment for those who need it most. Songs like “Jump The Fence” and “Brick Wall”  are anthemic numbers about standing up for yourself and not letting the world drag you down, while “Fight Back” is a clarion call to the disenfranchised to join the punk-rock movement, with Turner instructing the listener to put up or shut up. Also worth the price of admission is bassist Tim Kerr’s “Sound on Sound,” which eschews the hardcore punk style and sounds remarkably like the indie rock style of the early 1990s.

Two years later, they released their third and final album,  No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, Theres Always A Seat! Unlike their previous albums, this final statement feels like a breakup record. The album starts off with a negative, “No,” and the majority of the songs have a negative aspect to them—whether it’s self-loathing (“No,” “Killing Time”)  hating one’s job (“Work”),  and, perhaps more importantly, the growing rigidity in the punk rock world (“Narrow View”). Musically, they’re in fine form and their growth as a band can’t be obscured by the seemingly negative lyrical content. The best number here, “What’s The Word,” which is an out-and-out funk number, a party song of the type Fishbone would soon innovate.

Sadly, the band wouldn’t survive long, dissolving after the making of this record. Each member would go their own way, and the legacy came to an end in 2005 with the sudden death of Turner. Still, these two albums are wonderful documents of one of punk rock’s criminally underrated bands.

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