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The problem with most CD reviews is you only get the opinion of the one critic doing the review. So we thought it might be fun to try something new here by giving the exact same CD to two different critics (or more) and see what they each come up with and just how much difference a single critic's opinion can make. 

Note: due to the nature of this series, the reviews may tend to be more in the first person than you are used to with music criticism.

Be Your Own Pet

Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
By Patrick Muldowney

Be Your Own Pet Lesson #1: Play it Loud!

I made the mistake of trying to make this conversational background music the first time through and thought the band was terrible. The next time I went a little higher than my comfort zone and had a much better experience. This band is a bloody raw energized garage rock outfit, and to enjoy them at any less than an annoying-to-the-average-human level would be impossible and impolite. I've owned a few CDs in my life that actually had the bravado to instruct the consumer to play it loud, which I found presumptuous and worthy of the elevator level treatment, but this one actually calls for such an action.

Be Your Own Pet Lesson #2: Dig the Drummer.

I wasn't immediately into Jemina's vocals. I thought Karen O. I thought Bikini Kill. I thought, "Big deal, where's 'Maps'?" The initial draw is the prodigious skills of Jamin Orrall. You can sense those players who seem to be an extension of their instrument. The difficult and unorthodox moments are natural to these people. My list is short when considering these types, but a couple would be Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon. It would be premature to include Orrall before he's even in his twenties, but this album shows he might end up there. He uses his toms brilliantly to create a jungle rock feel. He speeds up and slows down tempos fluidly without relying on the structural change/signature change crap. He snaps rim hits like they're as useful as the skins. Being a guitarist and wannabe lyricist, those are generally the first things I note, but I did not really begin to like BYOP until I caught onto the percussion work. Without pulling the Neil Purt look-what-I-can-do, Orrall puts in one of the best studio performances I've ever heard on this album, and the fact that the producer did not make him sound produced adds to the brilliance. 

BYOP Lesson #3: If you like a song don't get too attached, and if you don't like a song the pain is brief.

On the Be Your Own Pet disc, a 2-minute song is an epic. Many of the songs clock in at about a minute and a half and have a quick tempo, which makes for no surprises. You can tell right from the beginning which songs you like, and they won't overstay their welcome, plus you have the benefit of not needing to skip the lesser songs because they'll end quicker than your finger hits the button. "Wildcat", one of my favorites, ends at 1:24, which allows Jonas Stein's annoyingly ear piercing guitar riff to remain catchy, while Jemina's "I am a wildcat/You are a worm/And we are chasing each other and taking turns" chorus is repeated little enough to retain appeal. I could see this band, some still teens, maturing as a band in the future, possibly detouring from punk like British Sea Power and The Replacements, but to this point I appreciate their ability to make effective music that avoids redundancy. 

BYOP Lesson #4: The lightness of being.

Maybe it's the fact that they're young, or maybe it's that they're spawn of music royalty, but, whatever it is, I really enjoy the lack of emotional baggage on Be Your Own Pet. The album is so playful and energetic, without having the usual anger and self-loathing, it's exciting to hear. Especially since it accomplishes this without being dependant on foolishness like so many flash in the pan popular bands (ex. Bowling for Soup). The songs that best show this are "Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle" and "Adventure". "Bicycle…" has my favorite percussion work, while celebrating reckless abandon and invincibility. "Adventure" absolutely needs a video featuring Dora the Explorer on safari, with its jungle beats and youthful lyrics. It is similar to some early No Doubt sounds, and could ironically make them a candidate for a Nick award considering some of the language on the rest of the album.

BYOP Final Analysis: Look to like if looking liking moves.

Be Your Own Pet is a band in perpetual growth. You may like them now, then be jealous of their popularity in a few years. You may find them detestable now, only to become a fan as they evolve. You may grow with them, as I did with Superchunk, and love this album along with the next dozen. Whichever adventure is chosen, Be Your Own Pet is worth your attention.

Preview and Purchase online

Be Your Own Pet - Summer Sensation
By Rob Nipe

People may or may not remember my review of the latest Yeah Yeah Yeahs' album Show Your Bones where I chose to review the album using the hypercritical "gush" technique. It was the first time I had a full album from that band and it blew me away so much that I blubbered about how good the album was for about three or four paragraphs. Seriously, it was disgusting. I meant it…but still, it got to be a little much by the end. I'm pretty sure-just before I sent it off-I edited out the part about the album possibly curing cancer. It was truly an energizing album-one that makes you want to make music too. But I was able to resist the urge. Sadly, Be Your Own Pet could not. 

Now, I understand that Be Your Own Pet has been around longer than this last Yeah Yeah Yeahs' album. They have another album out, a hit single in the UK, and all of this has been done before they graduated high school. Great. Maybe it is just the fact that they also have a female lead singer. Maybe it is the straight forward, unapologetic punk sound that they use. Maybe it is just me. But this five song Ep hits a little too close to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' territory. It opens with "Bicycle", a song that lists all of the bad things that they are going to do to your (our?) towns because they have bicycles. Like a little brother or sister that is emulating their older sibling, they are not quite as good as the original but are close enough that you have to listen twice. This is done so well that it makes me curious about the earlier album and the new album coming out. Hopefully, they don't meet Karen O in a dark alley though. I have a feeling that she could kick their asses and steal their bicycles. 

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