Princess Leia to Han Solo: “Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!” (The Empire Strikes Back)
Lyrics about girls, sci-fi and how awesome and how daft metal is; teamed with great sun-kissed punk rock/new wave/power pop sound, sky-scraping tunes and a cynical sense of humour – these geeks are my people. Seriously. Nerf Herder American Cheese is one of the very best albums of the 00’s and, speaking as a pacifist, I’ll fight anyone who says different.
Sitting on our bed
Hair helmets on our heads
We’ve got no time for chicks
We’re practicing our licks (Defending The Faith)
Come on! These are the guys who got their big break by writing a great song about how Van Halen weren’t half as good now DLR had gone, these are the guys who wrote songs called ‘I’m The Droid (You’re Looking For)’, ‘The Girl Who Listened to Rush’ and a not very affectionate one about Courtney Love. Ladies and gentlemen, you are now entering the Nerdisphere.
Sitting in my boxers eating Apple Jacks
Welcome to my world, welcome to my world
Whacking it to late night Cinemax
This old shirt is starting to stink
I don’t give a damn what people think
I can take a leak in the kitchen sink
It all kicks off with one of my very favourite ever songs to run to, ‘Welcome To My World’, which makes me chuckle every single time I hear it – that hymn to the unhygienic, mentally unhealthy, totally fun bachelor lifestyle. It’s perfect, the high-octane brilliance of the whole thing just cruises right past you in the fast lane and you have to love the closing rant about Cheers*. But there’s a sly sadness undercutting it all, you get to peek through all the bravado (‘Welcome to my world/Non-stop no girl action without you’) which stops everything being too vacuous. Not bad all in at 2:07.
American Cheese deals with all the major themes and challenges of our age:
- The perils of being really uncool (High Five Anxiety)
- Having a thing for the president’s daughter (Jenna Bush Army: ‘She’s got the brains and the looks that kill/Wanna see her butt on a ten-dollar bill’)
- The pain of seeing an ex in your old leather jacket (Jacket)
- The sheer excellence of metal (Defending The Faith and Rock City News)
- Cool punk chicks (New Jersey Girl)
- Cool new wave chicks (New Wave Girl)
- Cool trad jazz chicks (New Orleans Girl)**
What elevates American Cheese above all those also-rans who aspired to Green Day’s crown back in the day are the tunes – Nerf Herder take their cues from the Cars and their friends Weezer’s^ knack of writing perfect warm radio-friendly hooks, albeit in a marginally spikier format; it’s clever, it takes these tunes out of their particular timeframe and projects them onto a bigger stage. Lead Herder Parry Gripp, as well as being a big name in California orchid growing, is a great tunesmith*^.
You calling my bluff, mortal? Okay I call ‘Mr Spock’ to the stand – a song that makes a point to an over-demanding chick, via an ode to everyone’s favourite Vulcan:
You want a guy who can bring the Bacon
And you want a guy with Savoir Faire
Somebody who can take control of it
Someone with cool black shiny hair
You don’t want a boyfriend
What you want is Mr. Spock
To come to your wasteland
And destroy the roh-oh-oh-oh-oh-bot
Something more than human
Someone with blood that’s cold and green
You want something better… than me
Again, I am a sucker for the fleeting glimpses of feeling we get in a funny song. Which is why I have spent whole days listening to American Cheese, right back when I first accidentally downloaded it illegally back in the day, replacing it with a CD (there was no UK vinyl), up until I finally got my hands on a vinyl copy last year.
There’s nothing here that will irrevocably change your life, unless that is you’ve been feverishly waiting 20 years for a song about wearing a cashmere sweater (‘come to me/I’m warm and fuzzy!’), this is simply music to brighten your day a hundredfold, the way all the best music does.
The American Cheese on the cover may be flat, artificial and unappetising^*, yet another nerdy act of self-deprecation, but have no illusions it is the absolute antithesis of the delights awaiting you inside.
PS: Not from this LP but check this beauty out:
Sammy Hagar, is this what you wanted, man?
Dave lost his hairline but you lost your cool, buddy
* Can’t stand another episode of Cheers tonight
I hate that Woody
I hate Diane
Frasier and Norm
That dumbass mailman!
**yeah, okay I made that one up. So, jail me.
^They wrote a great song about supporting Weezer – this one’s just for you Geoff! I think they sound more like Weezer than Weezer do these days (the song’s from 2016):
*^I would unstintingly recommend his CD (I know, I know!) of advertising jingles For Those About To Shop, We Salute You to you. He also seems to spend all his time these days making screwball pop songs about cats, bunnies and hedgehogs (yes Danica, hedgehogs!) on Youtube.
^*although as the child of hippies and whole food enthusiasts I LOVE cheese slices – I still feel like a real rebel when I eat one.