The Bugs sound almost like every other garage band. Almost. There’s the tinny vocals, the lo-fi fuzz of the guitar, the quick and catchy riffs, the angsty (and bitingly comic) lyrics. It’s all very Buzzcocks. But at almost every turn this album seems to separate itself from the pack: the guitar a little edgier, the sense of humor a little sharper, everything just a little elevated from the norm.
Exactly how is harder to pinpoint. Perhaps it’s the painfully simple and alluring second track, “Fuckin’ A Right,” in which every line starts with a simple statement like, “You say you want to kill the President,” followed by a matter-of-fact phrase: “Yeah, I fuckin’ know what you mean.” Perhaps it’s the few endearing slow songs, like “Neon Sun,” which are freakishly similar to Daniel Johnston’s most palatable recordings. Perhaps it’s the basic straightforwardness of it all, since nearly every one of the 18 tracks from this Portland duo is less than 90 seconds long. Or perhaps it’s just that I was instantly swayed by the liner notes, which include a note from gonzo rock critic Richard Meltzer declaring all rock ineffectual—excepting The Bugs, whom he labels “the flying fucking shit,” with the last word actually underlined.
I don’t know exactly what it is that sets The Bugs apart, but it doesn’t matter. This is simply a great album. (Skylar Browning)
The Bugs play Total Fest Saturday, Aug. 11, at 11 AM at the Big Dipper.