Nashville punks Be Your Own Pet refused to wilt under the added pressure of having released a hot debut as they began recording their second LP, Get Awkward. “I was trying not to think about, ‘ohh second album, better not suck,’ ” fiery lead singer Jemina Pearl tells Rolling Stone. “All of us just tried to concentrate on writing better songs.” After spending months recording in Nashville with producer Steve McDonald (and listening to a surplus of Iggy & the Stooges), the young band churned out an album that roars louder than their self-titled debut, as Pearl and Co. turn their explosive energy on surf-rock, the classic girl-group sound and more. The band blisters through fifteen songs in a little more than a half-hour, and although the new tracks are more nuanced and developed, they’re still charmingly raw.
While the threat of a sophomore slump didn’t affect Pearl (“I don’t read blogs or do any of that Internet stuff”), she did have a more business-like approach to this album. “We went into the studio more ready and willing to work really hard and try different things,” she says — an approach that stood in stark contrast to the careless aesthetics that accompanied their debut. While the new seriousness led to a few fits of writer’s block, Pearl had a cure for the dreaded creative affliction: “I’ll just write a song about a movie,” she admits.
One of these songs, “Bitches Leave,” was inspired by Robocop, specifically the scene when Kurtwood Smith disrupts Miguel Ferrer’s cocaine party with gun in hand, bluntly instructing the naked women, “Bitches, leave.” The song’s rallying cry of “Things aren’t pretty in New Detroit, so go ahead and get to the point” is obviously an homage to Robocop‘s unique outlook on the Michigan city. Another cinema-inspired song, “Zombie Graveyard Party,” finds Pearl mining Return of the Living Dead, the off-shoot series of George C. Romero’s famous zombie flicks (“Ouch,” the closing track on their debut album, was inspired by the original Dawn of the Dead). Get Awkward‘s potential first single, the break-neck surf-punker “The Kelly Affair,” is about Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, with Pearl sneering “Everybody here parties all the time, everybody here has sex on their mind, everybody here is popping pills.”
The album isn’t just about obscure films, however — it’s also markedly more autobiographical than the band’s previous effort. “Becky,” which sounds like X-Ray Spex covering “Do the Locomotion,” is about Pearl’s struggle to relate to the girls she used to encounter in high school, while “Bitches Leave” deals with Pearl’s distaste for groupies. “Super Soaked,” the album’s opening track, was written the day of Pearl’s twentieth birthday, and relives the experience of growing old. “My whole life has been one giant awkward phase,” Pearl says, reiterating the album title’s significance. “I’ve put everything I have in this album,” Pearl admits, “I’m proud of it.” Get Awkward is due out spring 2008.