By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
What's more punk than the Statue of Liberty? Sporting a spiked do, the icon is famously engraved, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"--a more eloquent populist plea than any Clash lyric. Fellow New Yorkers A.R.E. Weapons' debut album begins with its own Liberty Island: song-of-the-year-candidate "Don't Be Scared," an open-armed invitation to the tired, the wired, the poor, the posh, the lame, the hip. Sounding like Space Ghost's cosmic redneck Brak, Brain F. McPeck yells, "Life is beautiful," just before sharing this advice: "My old man said, 'Son/You don't have to live like a saint/But whatever you do, don't live in fear/Don't be scared/Be cool.'" And with a guitars-strings-guitars-keyboards-guitars arrangement bristling behind McPeck, Pop's advice has obviously gone straight to heart.
A pair of gristly kids cranking out so-dumb-it's-pretentious synth noise in so-raggedy-they're-expensive cut-up T-shirts, A.R.E. Weapons have been slumming in the New York scene since 2001. The duo of McPeck and Matthew McAuley (now a trio with the addition of Paul Sevigny, actress Chloe's bro) released two singles on the U.K. label Rough Trade and performed at art galleries and velvet- roped clubs, building an exclusively hipster following that A.R.E. Weapons moots and refutes with its all-ages-and-creeds vibe.
Because A.R.E. Weapons really want you to like them. Even when they set a Warriors-like scene of knife fights and taut leather in "Street Gang," the song reads like a comic travelogue, with cheery Atari beeps twirling as McPeck sternly barks, "This is street gang turf!" But this isn't a put-on (though Suicide, the cut's obvious inspiration, might disagree), it's a mythical world where everything's at stake and the best haircut always wins. Only everyone gets a makeover and A.R.E. Weapons are footing the bill.
The naked exuberance, reminiscent of Andrew W.K. and Kid Rock, gains a defiant edge in the sing-along closer, "Hey World." After touching on Columbine, bad radio, and puberty, McPeck wails, "Janie's pregnant/She doesn't want to tell her parents/She's going to get an abortion/Her boyfriend's parents are hippies/They said they'd take care of it/Janie's fucking miserable/She's 14 living in a world of shit!" Backed by synthesizers and a full-fledged choir, the heavy-handed orchestration clicks with the naïvely simple message--essentially, even if you're a knocked-up teen with stupid parents, there's hope, cuz you can still B What U Want 2 B. So stay cool, dudes. Stay cool.