Boris the Sprinkler were one of the most deliberately zany punk bands of the 1990s and early 2000s. Fronted by the notoriously bizarre Rev. Nørb (who, when I asked him, assured me that his name was pronounced "Norb" but that he had stylized the font, intending the "ø" to be read as as a "null" rather than the Norwegian letter it actually represents), Boris the Sprinkler churned out a series of pop-punk albums that were, by turns, riotously funny, gratingly cacophonous, delightfully melodic, obnoxiously moronic, and thoroughly enjoyable. Hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Boris the Sprinkler proudly flaunted their Cheeseheadedness, often referring to local hangouts in their lyrics and even penning a song about pining for a grilled cheese sandwich on Saucer to Saturn, their 1995 sophomore LP.
Opening with the unmistakeable and inimitable voice of the late Wesley Willis mimicking the famous introductory words to the MC5's Kick Out the Jams
, 8 Testicled Pogo Machine
immediately aligns itself with the brand of self-consciously absurdist Dickies-style campiness. After introducing each of the band's members in mock-MC fashion, Rev. Nørb, deeming himself "the voice of Geek America" (the man is perhaps best remembered for wearing his antler helmet
, a football helmet with the words "PUNK" and "GEEK" plastered to its surface) proceeds to open the album with its geekiest, punkiest track, "Drugs and Masturbation."
Lyrically, "Drugs and Masturbation" sets the tone for much of the disk. Boris the Sprinkler, like many of the pre-emo boom pop punk bands of the nineties, were pretty much obsessed with the sex they could not get, the girls they could not get it from, and the hands they turned to in moments of frustration. The amplified self-depreciation, candid celebration of marginalized status, and the unabashedly onanistic tone of the song informs much of the album's remaining lyrical content. The record's second track, "Get Outta Here" is the tale of a single man living in his mother's house who refuses to succumb to a girl's unwelcome advances because he's "not that desperate yet." Like the Ramones' "I Don't Want To Walk Around With You," "Get Outta Here" is pure punk rock anti-love and a fitting introduction to a theme the band further distills in "(She's So) Disgusting." On "The Way It Is," however, the Reverend croons about a girl he believes is too good for him, wishing that he had actually mailed "a letter [he] never sent" in which he "told her how [he] felt." Furthermore, we eventually learn, the singer has never even spoken to the girl, placing "The Way It Is" alongside such nineties pop-punk versions of this eternal rock 'n' roll theme as Screeching Weasel's "Totally" and "Claire Monet." On the track "1-3," the speaker sings about his unfortunate discovery that a girl for whom he has developed a physical attraction is, in fact, a mere thirteen years old. Though she is half his age, the ephebophilic character struggles with his forbidden attraction to the unwitting Lolita. And, in case you haven't yet realized that a huge chunk of the album deals with the seemingly impossible act of forming a healthy relationship between a male and a female, "Girls Like U" makes the point abundantly clear.
Other than tales of unrequited love, 8 Testicled Pogo Machine makes frequent mention of fast food (Taco Bell, in particular), classic punk bands (the U.K. Subs), and comic book characters (Archie Comics' Professor Flutesnoot and Mr. Weatherbee and the Green Lantern make an appearance).
Musically, the album is quite a bit more diverse than most records classified as pop-punk. While you've got tons of Ramones-y stuff going on, there's a clear roots rock element to the record as well as bits and pieces of what might be considered Doo-Wop, rockabilly, Lemonheads-esque alt-pop, and (deliberately) horrible a cappella. What really unifies the album is the band's aforementioned zaniness. The concentrated weirdness and light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek lyrics about such pedestrian topics as drinking grape juice ties the album together at least as much as the rapidly-played, elementary power chords.
Track 1. "Drugs and Masturbation." Truly the voice of Geek America.
Track 9. "The Way It Is." I remember listening to this song over and over again in my freshman dorm. What I loved then - and what I still love today - is the perfect evocation of a self-critically melancholy mood. It's a frank admission to oneself that "I fucked up," a vain attempt at stoic acceptance of disappointment with some beautiful backing vocals and a guitars that'll hook you instantly.
Track 11. "Gimme Gimme Grape Juice." How punk is this? I mean, you take a Ramones title, replace "Shock Treatment" with a relatively under-appreciated beverage (at least in punk songs, where beer is more often than not the libation of choice), add a jailhouse-issue harmonica performance, and play over standard, chugging pogo punk. Oh, and then add an almost-Elvis "Gimmuh-Gimmuh, uh-huh" for good measure. And then burp to end the song.
Sobriquet Grade: 85 (B).