Cub formed in 1992 in Vancouver, just across the Canadian border from the gravitational pull of Olympia, Washington’s K Records/Beat Happening scene, and first appeared on a pair of pleasingly amateurish six-song 7-inchers. Genial, sweet, simple and sturdy enough to rock away the coyness that could ruin guitar-pop tunes like “A Party” and “My Chinchilla,” the self-declared cuddlecore trio proves that cute can be differentiated from cutesy.
The Betti-Cola album, with an original cover illustration of the band by Archies Comics artist Dan DeCarlo, recapitulates most of those EPs and then moves on with 15 subsequent tracks, originals and otherwise, that evince increasing musical strength and confidence (especially on the part of guitarist Robynn Iwata and singer/bassist Lisa Marr; a procession of drummers make rhythmic progress impossible to chart). Besides nifty numbers like the idyllic “Pretty Pictures,” the hopeful “Someday” and the buzzingly superstitious “Lucky 7,” there’s a lovely rendition of Beat Happening’s “Cast a Shadow,” a peppy bop through Brian Wilson’s “Surfer Girl” and an indifferent version of Daniel Johnston’s poignant “Tell Me Now.” Typical of Cub’s casual goodness, the 24-song album ends with a cover of the band’s own “What the Water Gave Me” by NFA, a male Canadian trio from New Brunswick. (Betti-Cola was also released as a double 7-inch with two bonus tracks added to selections from the LP.)
It’s tempting to make too much of the stripped-down cover of the Go-Go’s’ “Vacation” that ends the much- improved Come Out Come Out (released on CD and triple 7-inch), but it’s impossible to gauge whether the song is being milked for camp or enjoyed for its own merits rather than meant as a tribute to the pioneer rock women. In fact, it doesn’t matter, as Cub is well on the way to defining itself. Marr’s singing has plenty of vulnerable but self-possessed personality; Iwata’s fuzz- guitar power fleshes out the band’s sonic presence; drummer Lisa G punches the beat with brisk authority and no frills. Ultimately, though, it’s the lyrics — about crushes on girls (“Ticket to Spain”), sexual roles (“You be Doris, I’ll be Rock” is a crushing throwaway in “Your Bed”), romantic disillusion (“Life of Crime”) and unfailing devotion (“So Far Apart”) — that give the album the weight intentionally absent from the breathless music. Incidentally, a very surprising unlabeled bonus track starts five minutes after the end of “Vacation.”