Honey Badgers // Buena Park
Recommended Track: Front Pocket
Does anyone understand Resurrection Records? I don’t understand Resurrection Records. Most labels can be identified with a certain sound or vibe, for lack of a better term, but this has never been the case with RR. They’re always over the map. Just look at their Bandcamp page if you don’t believe me: Primitive Hearts AND The Shrills AND Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel AND Bath Party, etc. All of which is to say I had zero expectations when I put RR-029 on ye olde turntable and dropped the needle on side one, track one of Orange County band Honey Badgers’ Buena Park. Result? Dude! Loved it. Fucking loved it.
And what’s not to love? Buena Park is above all a very classic, keyboard driven garage pop record reminiscent of Pangea circa Living Dummy and covered in the greasy fingerprints of every band that ever had a cut on Teenage Shutdown. Frat rock, frug pop, mid-sixties stompers, demented teeny-bop and punk attitude–it’s all here and it all sounds incredible thanks to the technical wizardry of Crystal Antlers’ Jonny Bell, who should probably record everyone’s LP. He’s made the Honey Badgers sound like the sonic equivalent of cut crystal while allowing the band’s lo-fi thrashiness to pulse below the surface; an essential element without which Buena Park would lose a lot of its bratty charm.
Still, none of that would matter if the songwriting weren’t any good, and every song on Buena Park is the very definition ear candy with each track offering at least one or two interesting parts that give the record a very high replay value. Thankfully, snotty vocals, crazed delivery and a darkly humorous POV means it never gets too sugary as many of these OC garage pop records tend to do. But despite some wonky prog-rock noodling (“D Minor”) and the occasional dip into psychedelia (“Witch house”), this is most definitely a pop record. It’s those keys, man. Even when Buena Park starts to lean more punk, the hooky organs keeps things firmly anchored in the pop realm–see “Bumstick” or “Gut Rock” as examples of what I mean.
This being an Orange County garage pop record, Buena Park does trend very dude-ish at times. There are songs about shooting guns, eating meat, etc. It’s all fine and funny, but Honey Badgers take it a bit far at times. “Meat Mountain” has some icky lyrics about leaving “two lovely girls” in a shallow grave. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke (the girls were eaten by a bear, the narrator don’t care) but when paired with a cow punk beat and a chorus of hootin’ ‘n hollerin’, the sentiment comes across as a little too “dead girls, LOL!” for me. But, on the other hand, “Front Pocket” also boasts some pretty creeptastic lyrics and it’s my favorite song on the entire record. Sure, I could bloviate about how singing about asking someone to stick their hand down your pants so you can splooge on it is somehow less offensive than singing about dead girlfriends but I guess what it comes down to is the fact that all of us, no matter how principled, are willing to swallow all manner of politically incorrect shit if the song’s got a great beat and you can dance to it, which is why I’ve been jumping around in my apartment for the past two weeks shouting, “Please give me free money cuz working is for dummies!”
The record’s only real flaw, and this is a minor quibble, is the length. Garage pop naturally begins to sound very same-y after a while and Honey Badgers could’ve cut 2 or 3 songs without effecting the overall flow of the LP, but who cares, really? Buena Park is 100% pure magical fun from start to finish, a self-contained one-night-stand of a record that only wants to make you feel good, make you dance, make you laugh–you know, just yer good old fashioned suburban rock and roll, a little piece of genius born and bred and passed out on a couch in a two-car garage. I’d nearly forgotten what it sounded like. Happy Christmas to me, bitches.