Screeching Weasel – My Brain Hurts

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

Dedicated Ramones fans of the highest order, Screeching Weasel have been dispensing bratty, funny, and thoughtful candy-coated punk for several decades. Formed in Prospect Heights, Illinois in 1986, the band was the brainchild of Ben Weasel (Ben Foster) and John Jughead (John Pierson). WIth a rotating cast of other band members, they released two albums before disbanding in 1989 (but not before Dan Vapid (Dan Schafer) joined on bass). They reformed in 1990 or ‘91, resulting in My Brain Hurts, now with Dan Panic (Dan Sullivan) on drums, and then Wiggle and Anthem for a New Tomorrow, both in 1993. After one more album (with guest bass by Mike Dirnt of Green Day), the band broke up again. Screeching Weasel has reformed and broken up many times since then, and has continued to release albums into 2022, with Ben Weasel the only constant member. One band breakup came after Weasel assaulted two women during a show in Austin in 2011.

What I Think of This Album

My Brain Hurts is the first great Screeching Weasel album and not coincidentally, the first one where they embraced the Ramones sound (moving on from their earlier thrash/hardcore style). The classic Weasel/Jughead/Panic/Vapid lineup is here (plus bassist Dave Naked, with Vapid switching to guitar), and they energetically romp through fourteen songs in roughly 30 minutes. If you want an album that includes a reference to an obscure character from The Brady Brunch, presents an elegant and humane summary of comparative religion, namechecks sociologist/psychologist Erich Fromm, empathically extols the benefits of methadone, and provides the unfortunate imagery of “eat[ing] mashed potatoes in the nude,” then this is the record for you.

The first highly promising sign is “Guest List,” co-written by Ben Weasel and Dan Vapid, a tuneful basher that includes lyrics like “I put her on the guest list at the show / And now I get to watch her dance like the other weirdos do.” “Veronica Hates Me” was supposedly a response to Material Issue’s “Valerie Loves Me” and it works as well on its own merits as its inspiration, relying on a call-and-response chorus, some fantastic “oh oh oh oh”s, the excellent line “why the deposition?,” and a colorful organ part in the outro that goes uncredited.

“Cindy’s On Methadone” is a title that suggests either judgment or mean-spirited humor, but it contains neither, as Weasel celebrates Cindy’s recovery and takes to task those who have failed to support her. The seesawing guitar line is great, too. Weasel provides a concise examination of Judeo-Christian and Buddhist beliefs, attempts to reconcile science and faith, and earnestly proposes that “it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not / ‘Cause some things are better left without a doubt / And if it works then it gets the job done” in the surprisingly tuneful and generous “The Science of Myth.” The serious subject matter continues with “What We Hate,” with Weasel again displaying his gift of being able to make lyrics like “the changes that alter us are a product of our own volition” go down smoothly and with fist-pumping enthusiasm. The breakneck pace of the song is truly impressive.

“Teenage Freakshow” is pure Ramones with a Too Tough to Die-era organ part that sweetens this cry of frustration and confusion; as with “Cindy,” the title suggests a far less thoughtful treatment than what Weasel delivers, and the depth of his lyrics continues to be a revelation on the album. The fucking handclaps make my day, as do the subtle harmonies. The band lightens up a bit on the bizarre, fast, funny, and very melodic “Kamala’s Too Nice.”

The Ramones inform “I Wanna Be With You Tonight,” which is equally tender, resentful, and self-deprecating (if not self-loathing), like any song of unrequited love should be. Weasel looks inward again – and once again does not like what he sees – on the title track, which is arguably the highlight of the album, with a great arpeggiated lead line and an absolutely killer outro.

Vestiges of the less melodic past survive in songs like “Making You Cry,” “Slogans,” “Don’t Turn Out the Lights,” and “Fathead,” none of which I care for (though none of which is terrible, either). The cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” comes across as silly and wholly unnecessary filler (the Johnny Nash song was also covered by Jimmy Cliff).

Executive producer Al Sobrante was at one time the drummer for Green Day. Actual producers were Larry Livermore (head of Lookout! records) and Andy Ernst.

The Best Thing About This Album

The intelligence, humor, and fundamental kindness in Weasel’s lyrics.

Release Date

July, 1991

The Cover Art

Every time I look at this cover, I keep expecting this guy to be Ronald Reagan. And then Hugh Beaumont. I consistently laugh when I think of one of these two telling the other “my brain hurts.”

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