At the end of 2014, Tokyo punks The Nerdy Jugheads released their first recordings on an intense EP that took the core sounds of Screeching Weasel and transplanted them via Japan, creating music that blended fine Ramonescore with the nerdy oriental quirks of Hi-Standard. The result was an all-thrashing, all-bouncing five tracker that no pop punk fan should be without. The band returned in the summer of 2016 with three new tracks, issued as one half of a great split release with New Yorkers The Young Rochelles. It’s East meets West in this spit EP face off…who will win this global punk battle of the bands?!
Starting with the less than subtle ‘Fuck Away From Me’, part translational hoo-ha, part inspired geekery, the Juggies kickstart their second outing with a tune that’s even more like the Weasel than ever before. The pacey rhythm works some absolutely perfect Ramones inspired guitar work; the sounds of Johnny are rewired for a new generation with a production value that sounds very like the work of Larry Livermore, while the accented voice gives everything a superb cartoonish quality. Repetition of the title manages to be both amusing and quasi-aggressive, while a guitar solo – shamelessly lifted from an old Screeching Weasel tune – cannot be faulted. With this, the band announce their return with class and style. ‘Here We Go’ presents more of the same from the ground up but makes more of a feature of the drums, playing in a hard and fast style which when the guitars subside really pushes the toms to the forefront. A dual vocal throughout this track increases the feelings of boundless energy and a wordless hook aims for the head with a shameless pop-punk dumbness. In terms of ticking each of the important boxes, each is tackled with ease. Stretching out beyond the two minute mark, ‘Party Hard’ shows off the Jugheads manifesto, brings another great chorus with an impressive counter vocal and proves that these guys had a very keen eye on the US 90s pop-punk scene when learning their craft. This is predictable, but no less brilliant for that and these three songs are a match for anything on the band’s standalone EP.
The Young Rochelles – a band comprising of two thirds of the New Rochelles – provide a totally complimentary musical response on the flipside, with two leftovers dating from early 2015. Their self-penned ‘Not Any Use’ cranks a supercharged Ramonescore riff, packing speed and intensity aplenty into just over a minute and a quarter. The riffs come fast and sharp, but a selection of bubblegum infused vocals – straight from the school of the much missed Teen Idols – increases the melodic factor. It doesn’t quite have the sheer perfection of ‘Cuidado’ (to be found on the New Rochelles’ split with DeeCracks) but for fans of the style, it certainly hits the spot. A well chosen cover of ‘Psycho Therapy’, meanwhile, pays homage to the real reason both bands do what they do. Like pretty much everyone who’s ever tackled this track – surely the most covered Ramones track ever – Young Rochelles don’t mess with the formula, allowing the fast and rattling riff enough space to dominate, while the buoyant vocal makes suitably light work of teen wrongdoings. For those who’ve been either used to DeeDee Ramone’s scratchy vocal, or even Skid Row’s Rachel Bolan giving the number an attitudinal kick in the crack, Ricky Rochelle’s almost bubblegum approach takes a couple of listens to attune, but – as expected – it’s a spot on rendition, even if it occasionally sounds more like The Methadones than Ramones.
Given how good the New Rochelles’ ‘It’s New…’ LP from 2011 still sounds and how their ‘Cuidado’ could just be the most perfect slice of Ramonescore ever, you might assume The Young Rochelles would come out on top, but despite two killer efforts they’re beaten by the Toyko thrashers at their own game. With two great bands and no weak links, this really raises the bar for split releases. While nothing is as good as ‘Cuidado’, the overall consistency of the material makes this even better than the New Rochelles/DeeCracks split – and probably second only to the legendary ‘Four On The Floor’ four way split between Enemy You, Teen Idols, Screeching Weasel and Moral Crux. If you’re a fan of either band, you need this. …And if you’ve never heard either The Nerdy Jugheads or Young Rochelles, you need to stop what you’re doing and rectify that right now.