About six months ago, I was checking out the Killed By Death Records website to hear some more of their wonderful, obscure, punk-rock records of years gone by. I stumbled upon one entry, which was--somewhat unusual for them--a fairly recent release by a group called Sneaky Pinks. Their self-titled EP from 2005 is the brain-child of one Justin Champlin. The songs on this EP are incredibly lo-fi. It wouldn't surprise me if they were recorded in his bedroom. They are extremely simple and incredibly childish (sample lyric from the song "Life Stupid I Stupid": "I want a blow job / I want a hot dog"). But there was something irresistible about this recording that made me want to seek out a fourth-print pressing of it on vinyl.
Fast forward to last week. I went to Guestroom Records in Norman, Oklahoma and saw a record by a "group" called Nobunny, featuring a man--in a black and white photo--wearing a bunny mask in a leather jacket, jeans, and Chucks leaning against a brick wall. The title of the album?: Love Visions. I immediately thought of two things: the first Ramones LP (1976) and the recently-departed Jay Reatard's breakthrough record Blood Visions (2006). The guy behind the counter at the record store confirmed that it was, indeed, Justin Champlin's post-Pinks project so I decided to chance it and spend $15 to buy it on vinyl. I figured if it wasn't any good, it could trade it in later. Plus it came on colored vinyl (my copy being a translucent red), which is always awesome.
Love Visions retains the lo-fi approach of the Sneaky Pinks EP. However, the emphasis shifts from punk rock to early pop/rock n' roll. Like the Ramones, many of these songs seem like they could have been recorded in an alternate-universe version of the late 1950s (one that had drum machines!). What is most striking about this record is the almost conservative naivete of the Champlin's approach. His lyrics seem to come from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy looking for love. There's no lust here; just a refreshingly simple belief in the power of love and rock n' roll. For me, this makes the primary referent for the album The Modern Lovers, not the Ramones.
The songs are absolutely catchy; resistance is futile. "Nobunny Loves You" is supposed to serve as an anthem, and it works quite well, drawing off 60s surf music. "I Know I Know" is one of the album's better cuts, featuring another hum-worthy chorus, and one of THE worst guitar solos ever. It's so bad it's utterly charming, reminding one of the gleeful primitives The Shaggs. Many of the songs are filled "woo-hoos," Phil Spector girl-group beats, and two- to three-chord songs, exemplified by "Somewhere New," "Church Mouse," and "It's True." There are touching little flourishes here and there, like the toy piano solo in "Chuck Berry Holiday." My other favorite is the closer, "Not That Good," wherein the narrator offers juvenile, but completely inoffensive criticism of a popular girl who has snubbed him (sample lyric: "You think you've got the coolest hair / You've got skidmarks in your underwear ... No, you're not that good / No, you're not that good"). And while this music is distinctly lo-fi, it doesn't shred eardrums like the recent "shitgaze" music of groups like Times New Viking (who I'm admittedly a disciple of!), No Age, or Wavvves. It's as if Champlin recorded demos and then decided the songs stood up; that big budget studio trickery was unnecessary. For these reasons, Love Visions is one of the more infectious and down-right fun records I've heard in quite some time.
Here are some relevant Nobunny links:
Nobunny on Myspace
"I am a Girlfriend" on YouTube
"Boneyard" on YouTube