When a fork in punk’s gutter offered the choice of obno/angry or obno/funny, bawling New Hampshire singer/guitarist Joe Queer (King) is one leather-jacketed road warrior who had no trouble deciding which way to head. (Do the titles “Kicked Out of the Webelos,” “Ursula Finally Has Tits” and “I Can’t Stop Farting” point the way?) Joined by stalwart bassist B-Face, drummer Hugh O’Neill and various second guitarists, the faithful Ramones fanatic — whose devotion runs deep enough that the Queers frequently play the band’s songs in concert and re-recorded the entire Rocket to Russia album, in order, released in a tiny edition packaged with parody artwork — stands for all that is fun about loud-fast-rules rock, and his band flies the popcore banner with glorious conviction. Derivative enough to play surf rock, recycle familiar melodies and bandy buzzwords like “cretin” about, the Queers nonetheless put their own New England dirtbag stamp on loud, sloppy three-chord pop and have hacked up more than their share of catchy fist-pumping singalongs, dumb/brilliant ideas, great tunes and raucous energy, filling a long stream of records with countless minutes of good stupid entertainment.
Despite the name, the Queers are gay-neutral — they’re not, and they don’t care. Still, there’s a fair amount of good-natured, avowedly tongue-in-cheek name-calling (e.g., “Fagtown”) in the prolific band’s early-’80s singles — most of which feature original singer Wimpy Rutherford — compiled on the thin-sounding but illuminating and funny as shit A Day Late and a Dollar Short. Track 34 is a 20-minute reunion of the old lineup doing a live-in-the-studio WFMU broadcast in the early ’90s.
Grow Up, the debut album that contains “Junk Freak” (“We’re not as famous as the Pixies or the Bags/Hey, we may be the Queers but we ain’t no fags”) also announces (in “Gay Boy,” remade from a single) “It’s perfectly acceptable to be a gay boy.” (As the liner notes admit, “We know some of these lyrics are pretty insensitive but we didn’t write these songs to hurt anybody’s feelings.”) Joe does have strong objections to other things, some of which he shares on Love Songs for the Retarded: white-power skins (“You’re Tripping”), certain green vegetables (“I Hate Everything”) and hippies (“Granola-Head,” which contains the immortal couplet “I’d rather be at home/Listening to the Ramones”). But when he sings “Fuck the World,” it’s only because he wants to spend the night hanging out with a girlfriend. And while his Beat Off harangue about “Ben Weasel” repeats other people’s complaints about the writer/Screeching Weasel rocker (also the album’s producer), Joe can’t muster any harsher indictment than “He don’t like Nirvana/I know he don’t like Prong/And I’ll bet you five bucks that he don’t like this song.” He manages a much stronger attack on rock’n’roll uniform wearers in “Drop the Attitude Fucker.”
For a while, the band’s studio albums were fairly consistent, navigating a narrow stylistic realm, each adding a few Queers qlassics to the qanon. Love Songs for the Retarded has the strongest material and the fullest sound. Beat Off boasts “Voodoo Doll,” “Too Many Twinkies” and a ripping cover of Tommy James’ “Mirage.” The shitty-sounding Grow Up has “I Met Her at the Rat,” “Burger King Queen,” “Goodbye California” and the winsome “I’ll Be True to You”; the sizzling, upbeat and pop-conscious Move Back Home soars with such sensitive character studies as “If You Only Had a Brain,” “High School Psychopath II” and “She’s a Cretin.”
After years of such solid achievement, the Queers rose to genuine pop-punk-surfcore brilliance. The four-song 7-inch Bubblegum Dreams inaugurated the trio’s new pop era with the irresistible “Punk Rock Girls” (“Me and Dr. Frank have both decided that we love them more than toast,” Joe sings, implicating his Mr. T Experience-leading labelmate in the post-adolescent lechery) and three other tunes, including a diabolical cover of the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” and a solid swipe at the Muffs’ “End It All.” The full-length Don’t Back Down, also produced by JJ Rassler (ex-DMZ) and engineer Mass Giorgini, takes off from there, showcasing another Brian Wilson tune (the title track, an anthemic hodad ode) and a killer cavalcade of super-catchy originals: “Janelle, Janelle,” “I Can’t Get Over You,” “I Only Drink Bud” and “Born to Do Dishes.” Without abandoning crudely funny sexism (“No Tit,” “Brush Your Teeth”) and smiley-face animosity (“I’m OK, You’re Fucked”), the Queers catch a wave and shoot the tube, taking pop-punk out for another exhilarating ride as if it were a brand new toy.
Although presented as a live album, the limited-edition (and vinyl-only) Shout at the Queers was, like Suck This, recorded before a small crowd in a South Carolina studio. Both capture the breathless rush of a Queers set with enthusiastic abandon. The former has an alternate drummer in place of O’Neill; the latter features Vapid and Panic from Screeching Weasel in the lineup.