The music world is once again going to have to start referring to Screeching Weasel in the present tense. Whether the punk scene likes it or not, the band is back: playing shows, releasing material, causing trouble. It started out innocently enough, a new lineup and a few shows here and there, then there was talk of new songs. A few months later the band emerged from the studio with First World Manifesto, a 14-song full length slated for release on Fat Wreck Chords on March 15th, 2011 and their first new material since 2000. The new record coincides with the band’s 25th anniversary, and it’s only prudent that we now discuss the journey that brought them here…Screeching Weasel hails from the suburbs of Chicago and was formed in 1986 by then-teenagers Ben Foster and John Pierson (That’s Ben Weasel and Jughead, for those of you not part of the real cool club). Like many punk bands of that era and just about every kid in a band at that age they were borne out of the youthful angst and irreverence that pervaded the scene of the 1980’s. Although goofy at times, they were hitting the nail on the head at a very early age when it came to social commentary and personal politics and it became clear that Screeching Weasel was to be a thinking man’s punk band.
As the years went by and the band progressed they came to work with Lookout Records, the prolific Bay Area punk label that was always in the right place at the right time and doing wonders for just about every band on their roster. The band went on to endure numerous lineup changes (17 ex-members so far by our count), but amidst all the breakups and reformations there was one lineup that was the most fruitful and consistent: Ben Weasel, Danny Vapid, Jughead and Dan Panic. This was the foursome that gave the world SW essentials like My Brain Hurts and Anthem For A New Tomorrow; and later again on Bark Like A Dog which is significant as it was not only their first release for Fat Wreck Chords, but it was much maligned by the hardcore (read: grouchy) Weasel fans yet somehow went on to be one of their most commercially successful efforts. How ‘bout that?
The adversarial nature of the band’s relationship with their fans persisted throughout their career (see the ditty “You’re The Enemy”). And while some of their punk rock contemporaries offered heavy-handed, opinionated messages in their lyrics or on t-shirts, contentious frontman Ben Weasel took his show on the proverbial road. His vitriolic audits of the punk scene went beyond musical media and could be enjoyed online, in books he authored, and in various columns; most notably in the seminal punk zine, Maximum RockNRoll. No one was safe from his scathing, yet amusing diatribes, but it also kicked off a pattern of bridge-burning and inner-band turmoil that sent the band careening into one breakup after another, each one being “once and for all”. Which brings us to the present…
In 2009 Ben Weasel announced that he would once again reform Screeching Weasel along with former member Danny Vapid, who himself had been staying musically active with The Methadones, a pop punk band of his own. At the end of the day, the band’s indomitable spirit and undeniably infectious tunes eclipsed the drama, and once the smoke cleared Screeching Weasel had not only pulled off a successful reunion, but launched an all-new resurgence. First came the remixed/reissue of 1998’s Television City Dream and then came the new album, First World Manifesto. SW loyalists have waited over a decade for this stuff and you can bet their interest hasn’t waned in the least bit.
FIRST WORLD MANIFESTO OUT NOW ON FAT WRECK CHORDS