Screeching Weasel – Anthem for a New Tomorrow

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I used to own two additional Screeching Weasel albums:  Wiggle and How to Make Enemies and Irritate People (the latter with Mike Dirnt of Green Day on bass). Both had some great songs, including the seedy bizarro-world Happy Days-themed tune “Joanie Loves Johnny” from Wiggle, but neither was as good as the twin pinnacle of My Brain Hurts and Anthem for a New Tomorrow, and I decided I had all the Screeching Weasel I needed with those two records. I am open to revisiting that conclusion. I also owned the first Riverdales album – an offshoot with Ben Weasel, Dan Panic, and Danny Vapid – but again, while it contained some quality tunes, it couldn’t hold my attention. Jughead eventually formed Even In Blackouts and has written novels and plays, as well as acted in theater productions with the Neofuturists. Dan Panic has drummed for various bands, including, surprisingly, Beulah. Danny Vapid has also continued in the music scene. Weasel remains a massively influential figure in the punk world.

What I Think of This Album

As great as My Brain Hurts is, the best Screeching Weasel album is 1993’s Anthem for a New Tomorrow, which came on the heels of the somewhat disappointing Wiggle (also released in 1993). Amplifying the Ramones-worship of Brain and confidently displaying more sophisticated songs and arrangements, Anthem becomes a perfect encapsulation of everything there is to love about Screeching Weasel:  thoughtful lyrics promoting individuality, antiauthoritarianism, and silliness; humor both high and low (mostly low); melody by the bucketloads; and plenty of punk energy.

Almost every one of the generous 18 songs here is a keeper. Screeching Weasel’s perverse approach is well-documented on opener “I’m Gonna Strangle You,” which is a hyperactive and ultra-catchy threat which resolves with a sweetly-sung, doo-wop influenced outro that is basically the blueprint for The King Khan and BBQ Show. 

Weasel expertly explores self-hatred, despair, frustration, and loneliness, including on “Falling Apart,” “Leather Jacket,” Rubber Room,” and “Inside out,” all of which basically form a suite of thematically related songs on what some might call side one. “Rubber Room” is a callback to the band’s hardcore roots as is hard-charging but still tuneful “Inside Out,” whereas “Falling Apart” and “Leather Jacket” are Ramones-based songs, the former of which benefits from some nice (and uncredited) keyboard and the latter of which describes the titular article of clothing as the consolation prize of a failed relationship.

The band surprises with instrumental “Talk to Me Summer,” a charming, chugging, and irresistible surf-rock inflected number that suggests this band has a lot more tricks up its sleeve than one might have assumed. Less surprising but even more fun is “Peter Brady,” which finds the band again dipping into their pop culture grabbag (though they seem to really have a thing for The Brady Bunch in particular) to remind listeners about the importance of being true to yourself, all via lyrics that offer solace to the acne-afflicted and the small-breasted and invoke the idea of a teenage wildebeest. Fat Mike of NOFX sings backup on this.

On both “Pete Brady” and neighboring song “I, Robot,” Weasel communicates that conformity and consumerism are fundamental qualities of the concept of Americanism promoted by politicians, marketers, capitalists, and religious leaders. This is also the thrust of the short essay in the booklet (reminiscent in its graphic design of the work of artist Barbara Kruger), which notably remains compassionate towards those who have lost their way and urges a collective striving for a healthier “new tomorrow.” Anyway, “I, Robot” is a song that DeeDee Ramone would’ve sold his collection of Converse shoes to have written.

Weasel’s dark existential themes continue to dominate the album, such as on arguable centerpiece “Every Night” and side two songs like “Three Sides,” “Cancer In My Body,” “Panic,” and “Trance.” “Every Night” boasts a lengthy and wonderful instrumental section that marries the innovation of “Talk to Me Summer” to the affecting and honest sense of loss that the lyrics on the front end convey. “Panic” packs 60 seconds worth of lyrics into fifteen seconds of song; “Trance” is a hardcore workout but not off-putting in any way. “Cancer” sort of splits the difference between aggression and melody. 

Weasel saves his love songs for the back half, with the fantastic and endearingly reductive “Totally” (as in, “I totally love everything about you”), the more mature “Claire Monet,” and the thrashy and very fun “Thrift Store Girl,” elevating this album above standard punk fare. “Totally” and “Thrift Store” provide Chicago references (Belmont Avenue and Wicker Park, respectively). Of course, “Thrift Store” also reminds us that Weasel is capable of singing “[we can] rot amongst the cynical prototypes of love” and make it work in the context of a speedy punk song. “Claire Monet” bemoans the marriage (complete with name change) and absence of a teenage crush, noting “But if she couldn’t go on being Claire Monet / Who can?”

The album ends with call to arms “A New Tomorrow,” on which Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzenbach, the Vindictives’ Joey Vindictive, and Cassandra Millspaugh all contribute vocals. This ostensible title track takes the message of the booklet’s essay and puts it to music.

This album again featured the classic Weasel/Jughead/Dan Panic/Danny Vapid lineup. The album was engineered by Mass Giorgini, who worked with Green Day, the Ataris, Rise Against, Anti-Flag, Alkaline Trio, and my beloved Cub. He is also a well-published linguistics scholar and has a Ph.D. in Cervantes Studies.

The Best Thing About This Album

I don’t know who plays the keyboards on this, but they get a very strong honorable mention that falls just shy of the strength of Ben Weasel’s songwriting.

Release Date

October, 1993

The Cover Art

This is an odd parody of patriotism and conformity, bathed in uncharacteristic pastels. I guess it works because I can always picture it pretty well in my mind when I think of the album. More interesting is the photo on the back of the booklet showing the band playing live, and what I love about it is the fact that Weasel has somehow attached a Big Gulp-type drink container to his mic stand so that he can sip hands-free when not singing.

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