Track This: Mr. T Experience's "The Girl Who Still Lives At Home"
The other day I was listening to 1989's Making Things With Light, an album that runs the gamut of genres, even for such an early MTX record. Pop punk songs, such as"What Went Wrong" and "Pig Latin" sit next to seemingly odd Power Pop covers, including one of Rachel Sweet's "What's In The Cuckoo Clock"and another of Shocking Blue's "Send Me A Postcard," each transformed into a hooky, humorous MTX number. While the album is not generally considered a standout in their catalog, I think it is somewhat of a lost classic, especially if you consider the live tracks that Lookout! added. The rendition of "Danny Partridge Got Busted" rivals the version from Everybody's Entitled To Their Own Opinion, while the "Untitled Spoken Word Piece" adds an element of jocularity that shows how smart the band's lyrics are in contrast.
Lyrically, Mr. T Experience sometimes seems like another band in the Screeching Weasel mode, but the details make the difference. Their songs are smart, despite dealing with the usual pop punk topics; they tell a story that goes beyond the surface. Thus, we don't just learn about the band's romantic travails, including the name calling and blaming of the average punk tune, but experience the band's intelligence through clever word play that you often do not see in most of their label mates. They can be in a "Dumb Little Band," while still making extremely thoughtful statements about relationships and punk rock in general. Yet they never have to be the political punk band or the spokespeople for the scene. Green Day's Billie Joe can do that while Screeching Weasel can sell more records and update the Ramones. MTX is allowed to write good songs, even though they are often overlooked in the lists of great pop punk bands.
"The Girl Who Still Lives At Home" is as unassuming as the band. They will never be scene heavyweights because of their weird influences and flair for odd covers and odder revelations about humanity. They will also never be punk enough because of how they mangle genres and play with musical and lyrical tropes. The song is a plaintive expose of a boring girl's life. She is different than the exciting punk rock "chick" or ex-girlfriend nemesis of most punk songs. Dr. Frank places her in a classic punk alienation mold as she struggles with her parents. Yet there's an understated difference; she is fighting against a situation that she is powerless to change, yet she does not want to rebel and follows their rules despite her age. Instead, she wants the simplicity of just moving away, but is stuck because of something traumatic that happened to her that the band never reveals. Instead, they offer pop culture references like L.A. Law and basic life situations like helping her mom in the kitchen. She sees her old friends from high school who got out and "They're so different now and she is practically the same." The song paints a different picture of alienation from most others; what if nothing changes, and she can never escape her comfortable, yet horrible situation? Songs about the commonplace are not common in rock music, and this one is very punk rock in its portrait of the normal as tragic, while capturing post-adolescent angst at its most vulnerable in the unnoticed and unexamined. How punk rock is that?
Musically, the song is garagey, despite its subject matter, starting with a surfy, clean guitar solo that makes it seem like the song will rock out like the previous ones, such as "Psycho Girl" or venture into instrumental territory, before Dr. Frank's everyman vocals detail the story alongside turned-up distortion. Bassist Aaron Rubin and drummer Alex Laipeneiks tightly back up the guitars, giving the song some 60s flair with rolling drum fills and classic East Bay walking bass.
Listen to the whole album. The song starts at 28:03.