Indianapolis punks Benny and the No-Goods have released Nothing’s Cool, the band’s second album, which follows last years debut Fistful of Dullards. The “band,” at least for the sake of the LP, is mainly just Benny No-Good, known also for his other bands including The Yavin 4 and The Enders, filling all roles on the album (Benny has a few different line-ups of bandmates and scallywags filling out his live performances).
The album opens with “Out Of Place,” which starts small and builds, first to a bit of a crescendo that seems like it could be the anthemic opener to some lost arena-rock album, before diving straight into pure punk rock snottiness. The album mostly continues the latter sound throughout, and it’s a damn shame that the Warped Tour (especially that circa 2001) is not the summer institute it once was, because Benny and the No Goods would definitely warrant a place on one of the stages, and almost any one of the songs would not be out of place on a Warped Tour sampler… and I mean this as the highest possible compliment.
“This Doesn’t Suck” continues the vibe set by the opener, and is basically the “Another State of Mind” of the album: namely, a love song that… well… doesn’t suck. “Yeah, I’ve always had really, really bad luck/But this doesn’t suck” is maybe the best that aging punks can ask for out of love and life, and Benny has captured that resigned yet appreciated feeling 100%. The self-deprecation continues with “A Dollar Short,” with brutal verses contrasted by a more melodic, whoa-oo-oo-punk chorus. This biting wit relents on “ADHD,” which ditches any pop trappings for a more pure, angry sound that addresses mental illness head-on.
“Gojira” finds Benny taking on everyone’s favorite kaiju, which, while having some similar vocal lines and subject matter as The Lillingtons, continues to encapsulate Benny’s penchant for jumping between straight forward punk and pop punk, balancing snotty, aggressive moments with more melodic chorus work. “Daydream Believer,” a cover of a song by The Monkees (better than The Beatles any day, fight me), fulfills the standard checklist one expects from a punk cover of a vintage punk song, but Benny’s delivery and arrangement, matched by the song choice, definitely put this track above a mere novelty or routine cover.
The lighthearted humor of The Monkees cover is quickly traded for a biting, rightfully angry malice in “Donnie,” a song with middle fingers pointed directly at #45. Opening with a deconstructed riff from “Hail To The Chief,” the song quickly becomes an inditement of Putin’s favorite plaything. “Donnie likes mail-order brides and Russian piss / Donnie likes grabbing pussy and a rapey kiss,” snarls Benny, and his rage and wit are on full, wonderful display; “Donnie” is easily one of the highlights of this album. “Nothing’s Cool” continues the dour mood, lamenting how much everything sucks… but the hand-claps and group choruses make it hard to stay in a shitty mood for long.
Punk’s (and pop punk’s) tendency to revel and worship on all things adolescent and/or childhood-nostalgic continue through the next two tracks. “My Dudes” is a celebration of, well, my/your/Benny’s/anyone’s best friends… you know, the kind of folk that you want to punch every so often, but also for which you would take a million bullets. “Saturday” is a wonderful paean to a lost era – the era of Saturday morning cartoons and continued bowls of cereal (consumed in front of the television, usually while the consumer is still dressed in their PJs). These tracks are followed by “Staring at the Walls,” an instrumental track that Benny cites as being inspired by “Jughead’s melodies in the Screeching Weasel song ‘First Day of Autumn’.” The lyric-less song is beautiful and emotive, and definitely elicits some wonderful emotions… but, in full disclosure, also makes the heart yearn for lyrics that are just as emotion-inspiring. That being said, the track is a wonderful aural sorbet, and not, as many instrumentals tend to be, a forgettable throwaway.
The album closes with two tracks that continue to highlight and encapsulate that aggressive-yet-melodic blend of punk/pop-punk (skate punk?) that Benny has cultivated throughout the album: “There’s No ‘I’ In Team (But There’s An ‘A-hole’)” and “Prince Vegeta.” The former song is the anthem for anyone who had to pull everyone else’s weight in a group project and the latter song is an ode to one of the major characters from the manga/anime Dragon Ball. Both songs serve to end the album well, with the “A-hole” being a wonderful “fuck you” punk assault and “Prince Vegeta” serving as a decent song in its own right, but a wonderful punk tribute to a great anime character once the lyrics are dissected.
Nothing’s Cool is a great step in the right direction for Benny and the No-Goods: it’s a well-crafted, entertaining, thrilling album, and should definitely find its way into the collection of every punk, freak, or nogoodnik on the block. Benny No-Good has created a great LP for the summer and for summer’s beyond, recalling the days when you looked forward to fucking off with your friends and spending the day getting sunburnt and dehydrated at the Warped Tour. It’s evident that Nothing’s Cool was made by a dude who gets punk, loves punk, and has a desire to share that love with his audience… and, if you’re a fan, you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice by not picking up this album.
Order Nothing’s Cool by Benny and the No-Goods on vinyl, CD, and digital here.