Review: Be Your Own Pet – Mommy

Artwork for Be Your Own Pet's 2023 album Mommy

Be Your Own Pet prove to be more vital than ever.

After more than a decade-long hiatus, early 2022 saw Be Your Own Pet announce a series of surprise comeback shows supporting Jack White, after a chance meeting with the legendary former White Stripes man.

It had seemed such an unlikely scenario for so long: their initial success arrived through a wave of media buzz and backing from the likes of Zane Lowe and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, the latter of which signed the band to his own Ecstatic Peace! label to add to support from the UK’s XL Recordings.

Still teenagers at the time, they quickly garnered a reputation for abrasive, high-octane live shows that drew comparisons to female fronted bands of the ‘Riot Grrrrl’ movement (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney) in the early nineties.

After just two full-length albums, the weight of expectation on young shoulders, relentless touring away from family and the gaze of a non-too-subtle misogynistic industry at the time led to complete burnout by 2008, with the baffling censorship of several tracks slated to appear on their second album, Becky, representing the final straw.

Fast-forward to the present day and the revisiting of the band’s undoubted chemistry has led to third album Mommy. With an overriding theme of taking back control of their musical careers and doing things on their own terms, it’s a sheer delight to listen to from start to finish.

The opening seconds of lead track Worship The Whip offers an immediate glimpse into why Be Your Own Pet were such a draw in the first place, with guitarist Jonas Stein’s snappy guitar runs and Jemina Pearl’s distinctive vocals at once melodious and razor-sharp in delivery.

A fleeting listen to lyrics such as, ‘You live for the punishment and you can’t see, that the boot’s pressing down on your neck’, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a straight-up ode to BDSM, but dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that it’s a denouncement on the double standards of right-wing conservatism.

Herein lies the strength of the new material, with the youthful exuberance of their back catalogue depicting gleeful adventures and riding bikes around an American town swapped out for knowing societal observations only time and raising a family can sometimes grant.

However, this doesn’t mean the band have lost their infectious sense of humour. As if to prove that point, following the opener is Goodtime!, a flat out hilarious, tongue-in-cheek reflection on being a former punk rocker now left with kids and a mortgage, with Pearl on the outside looking in on the current scene with a mixture of jealously and relief that it’s all in the past.

Bad Moon Rising is reminiscent of much of Courtney Love and Hole’s material, with an effortless cool in vocal delivery underpinned by a palm-muted undercurrent straight into a speaker-shattering power chorus much like The Vines.

An undoubted highlight arrives in the form of Pleasure Seeker, with Stein weaving his fingers around the bass notes for a heavier departure in sound that strays closer to Black Sabbath than any of their garage punk contemporaries. Pearl’s vocals adeptly switch between the calmer, euphonious moments, occupying the verse before rising above a reverberating instrumental during the expansive choruses of a multi-layered song that keeps on giving.

Perhaps as a testament to the strength of tracks on offer here, Be Your Own Pet have opted to keep their single releases to the latter half of the LP, ensuring there’s no let up in quality.

The psychedelic leanings of the Talking Heads and Pink Floyd-inspired Rubberist moves into the big hitting Big Trouble, the former with strident fuzz guitar and ominous police sirens setting the scene for a tale of battling for recognition when railing against oppressive gender roles.

Hand Grenade acts as a natural follow-up, with chorus cries of, ‘I’m not your victim, I’m my own person’, heralding Pearl’s desire to set herself free from manipulative influences in her past and move forward without the fear her adversaries wish to instill.

The beautiful serenade of Teenage Heaven closes out an album that’s about as timely as it gets in its messaging. The benefit of hindsight has given the band a renewed sense of freedom and command over their output, making for a record displaying the best of their garage punk ferocity with matured songwriting that sees their moniker of ‘Be Your Own Pet’ portrayed louder than ever.

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