By Mike Laws - 03/13/08 06:43 PM EDT
It pains me now to recall this, but there was even a period, sometime toward the beginning of middle school, in which I dyed my hair purple and plundered my old man’s closet for Cobain-style cardigans. (Hey, junior high’s an awkward time for a boy.)
Still, while I tend to regard the early 1990s as halcyon days, musically speaking — all that good rock ‘n’ roll, and both MTV and The Box to give it a forum — those days couldn’t last forever.
Grunge rocked mightily, but it was so damn brooding — someone had to come in and give us all a good-natured, fun-loving smack upside the head.
After all, why write about adolescent anguish and romantic turmoil when you can rock equally hard while singing about, oh, say, scratch-prone felines and the pleasures of canned fruit?
Enter the Presidents of the United States of America, an absurdly named three-piece who played a total of five strings between them, harbored an unusual obsession with small, usually fluffy animals, and ruled the charts for a short time beginning in mid-1995.
The Presidents came from Seattle, the cradle of all things hairy and flannel-covered — and they couldn’t have broken the mold more boldly. Frontman Chris Ballew was bald, for one thing, which in Seattle at the time must have been like strutting onto a nude beach in a hazmat suit. Plus, he preferred, in his lyrics, to eschew the prevailing world-weariness.
The closest this guy ever got to self-pity was describing an encounter with a beguiling stripper named Carla, who “seemed cool for a naked chick in a booth”: “Let’s be pals someday,” Ballew woozily intoned. “In other words/ Put some clothes on and call me.”
Sure, it wasn’t the most cerebral stuff, and it didn’t prove to have the staying power that Nirvana, Pearl Jam and others would bear out.
But go back to that self-titled album, the one with all those hits — “Peaches,” “Lump,” “Kitty” — and tell me if it isn’t still one hell of a fun ride.