Thursday, February 24, 2011

When In Rome Do As The Vandals - (1984)

As snotty punk albums go, When in Rome seems unexceptional on the surface. There are the tasteless joke songs ("Viking Suite," about a man disturbingly fond of little boys in costumes, presented as a mock prog-style rock opera). There's the requisite cheesy cover ("Hocus Pocus" by Focus, renamed "It's Not Unusual," complete with tuneless howls and shrieks that are even more painful than the original's yodeling). One key difference is that the band is quirky enough to experiment with different sounds (rather than just three-chord punk) and flexible enough to be successful at it. From the mock Western "Mohawk Town" to the Caribbean lilt of "Rico," the Vandals display a surprising musical versatility. Lyrically, the band is still rather one-dimensional, relying too much on jokes and schtick (such as the cheap shots at RV dwellers on "Airstream"), although "Slap of Luv," told from the point of view of a domestic abuser, is a surprisingly astute character piece. Still, the Vandals definitely display some real originality and talent on When in Rome, making it a notch above most indie punk albums. (

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