Release Date: Jul 29, 2014
Record label: Burger Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk-Pop
The year 2013 was a bit of a roller coaster for Kim Shattuck; she was hired to play bass with the Pixies in July, only to be given her pink slip the following November, apparently because she was a bit too demonstrative on-stage for their tastes. But the silver lining is Shattuck's higher profile will likely encourage more people to check Whoop Dee Doo, her first new album in ten years with the Muffs, the band she's been leading since 1991, and this long-player shows she's better suited to running her own show than playing second fiddle in someone else's (even if the latter pays better). Whoop Dee Doo doesn't break much new ground for the Muffs, but it also plays to their inarguable strengths -- Shattuck can reliably write a mean hook, and her lyrics are witty with a goofy undertow that never descends into the silly (and on occasion can float up into the poignant), while her vocals are a playful growl that's tough, musical, and charming all at once.
Kim Shattuck takes a quick breath at the beginning of the Muffs' first new album in 10 years, then picks up exactly where she and the band left off--snarling, very tunefully, about a boy, verse-chorus-verse, ooh-ooh-ooh, WAAAAUUUGH. That's also exactly where the Muffs began. There is scarcely a more consistent band in all of American pop-punk; singer-guitarist Shattuck and bassist Ronnie Barnett have been Muffs since 1991, and drummer Roy McDonald is the new kid, having joined in 1994.
After seeing Kim Shattuck tear it up first-hand with the Pixies last year, I found it hard to see why Charles and the boys showed the punk veteran the door after just six months. To my mind she injected some well needed attitude to a stodgier and mellower version of what was once a band of sub-three minute thrills. Rumours of her crowd-dives not fitting in with the Pixies image were abound, but as interviews show, the band wants, and to some extent needs, Kim Deal back - if only to tell Charles that tracks like “Ring the Bell” are dreadful.
Here’s a factoid that might make you rue your age: The Muffs have been around for 23 years. But on closer inspection, that figure is a bit misleading. Yeah, Kim Shattuck started The Muffs in 1991, at which point the band steadily produced five records through Really, Really Happy in 2004. And then … nothing.
Excepting the members of LA garage-punk trio The Muffs, whose last album was released in 2004, there are two types of people in the world: those who assumed them dead and buried, and those who never knew they existed to start with. Despite spending much of the ’90s on a major label, stardom eluded them: frontwoman Kim Shattuck is best known for her mysteriously brief tenure in the Pixies last year. ‘Whoop Dee Doo’ is sprightly and birdbrained as ever, though, middle age having no bearing on The Muffs’ teenage worldview, melodic directness and Shattuck’s sweetly rasping voice.
On their first album in a decade, the eternally young Muffs have wisely chosen to stick to what they know. Whoop Dee Doo may be a repeat, but that means it's an emotive, feel-good, fan-pleasing release. The band's appreciation of artists like the Ramones, Beatles and Pixies translates to a safe sound akin to the Rentals or New Pornographers."Cheezy" sounds like the La's "There She Goes Again," complete with a harmonica intro, while "Take a Take a Me" is a punk-rock sock-hop with faint organ, do-dee-dos and the occasional howl.
At the moment Kim Shattuck is probably best known in the indie rock world as the woman who replaced Kim Deal as the bassist in the reunited Pixies and lasted about six months before getting fired from the band herself. But Shattuck has a long history as the lead singer and songwriter for the Muffs. The Muffs came up in the ‘90s, where Shattuck’s sugary pop hooks and punky attitude nestled right in with the pop-punk explosion.
Checking out the live footage from the first flush of Oasis - then resembling five scallies who'd been given M&S clothing vouchers for Christmas – from Friday night pissheads' favourite The Word or Glastonbury '94, you find yourself encountering a Blade Runner moment as you freeze frame the screen to check for something that's not quite right. That seeming anomaly is the audience. Looking closely, what you see are plenty of kids with the floppy fringes of hair being grown to emulate Kurt Cobain a little too late, plaid shirts tied around waists and, in all likelihood, German paratrooper boots worn on feet.
This veteran (since ’91) L.A. combo still makes a deliriously loud pop-punk sound, and the fact that it’s been absent from the record bins for a decade makes the racket all that more righteous. Whoop De Doo finds feisty frontwoman Kim Shattuck abetted by longtime Muffsmen Roy McDonald and Ronnie Barnett on a dozen hi-nrg, tuneful gems with the same kind of vim ‘n’ vigor that marked their teenage selves’ efforts.