Munki Brain Label: Asian Man Records
Old punks never die, they just…actually, they die. In the case of New Hampshire's favorite punk sons the Queers, they lost drummer Hubie O'Neill to brain cancer in January 1999. But the band soldiered on, with Hubie's blessing, and this year the group celebrates 25 years of protesting against Portsmouth's uppity art students with its latest record, Munki Brain.
Which brings us back to the fact that they're old punks. Making beautiful pop, slowing down, letting up a little on the three-chord neckbreakers that made them legendary (all-time classics include "We'd Have a Riot Doing Heroin" and "I Met Her at the Rat," a paean to the Boston punk club of the 1980s and early '90s). Probably the ballsiest moves on this record – at least for guys who've basically been around since right after the Sex Pistols' heyday – is opening Munki Brain with the sugary-sweet "Overdue," a deliciously infectious mid-tempo make-up tune, and closing with the delightfully harmonious "Brian Wilson," a surprising tribute to the band's muse. Surprising, in that the band wasn't always known for kissing up to others – or for that matter, delightful harmonies. But it's all good. No one wants to hear another tiresome tirade calling out (fill in the blank) 15 times over on the new CD, right? "I Think She's Starting to Like Me" is more of a mellow Beach Boys song than the Beach Boys have written in the last two decades.
Old Queers fans, however, don't get your spiked leather shorts in a knot: The three-chord moshmakers are here too. "Duke Kahanamoku" is vintage surf punk at its finest, its title and chorus referencing the inventor or surf and the verse tossing out props to Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar. "Whatever Happened to Philthy Phil" is the fastball down the middle of the plate that '80s punk revivalists crave. "Monkey in the Suit," best of all, is a Clash-esque screamer that satisfyingly rips our sitting president, complete with vocal samples from Shrub punctuating their point. They haven't lost it, or grown too old to bring the rock. The Queers just choose to switch gears for the sake of entertainment – ours and their own.