Be Your Own Pet
Be Your Own Pet
he average age of menarche has fallen over the past century. Quite literally, girls are becoming women faster and earlier than ever before. Post-industrial sociological developments generally have little direct correlation with barely post-pubescent rock bands, but don’t tell that to Jemina Pearl, the lead singer of Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet.
For forty-five minutes the nineteen year-old carbonic-acid angel screeches, pleads, and shouts not like a banshee Betty Boop (…paging Ms.O), but like an actual woman possessed. She turns the tables—“I’m super rad / I’m coming to take your virginity!”—just as quickly as she laments rites-of-passage gone wrong—“All I wanted was a room at the Hyatt.” Not a girl, a certainly-willing-to-be-a woman, Pearl aspires to howl her way into womanhood.
Luckily, she’s got some pretty dependable boys surrounding her. Jamin Orrall abuses the drum kit like a trusty Kalashnikov, bassist Nathan Vasquez haunts the low frequencies with ease and guitarist Jonas Stein, always churning the power chords right when Pearl’s voice needs an emphatic smack, seems the most willing to play Clyde. His lead guitar is a fitting partner to her voice; rarely does Pearl push out a savage bark without Stein cracking some ears alongside her. Though to be fair, the boys, competent all, mostly provide the backdrop and only take the occasional moment to surge forward from their backdrop of over-revved three-chord squalor (“Adventure,” “We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol”). It’s almost always Pearl’s show.
BYOP’s debut cascades on itself. Its compulsive, one-sitting punk is delivered with absolute self-conviction. Pearl, like a true lioness, keeps all the males in check, pulling them through an almost-tender ballad—“October, First Account”—where she deadens her voice into a love-struck croon, “We’re on our way through every bolted door.” Cheesy, yes, but when lined up against the torrents of punk they’ve been weaving, it looks like a confession. And even if it is just a down-tempo oasis, it’s a strong one, a fine choice in album sequencing and another opportunity for Pearl to play with the album’s most engaging tension: whether to paint with riot-grrrl brushes or find the womanhood behind the pout.
Like any other artist, she succeeds when she toys with both sides of the paradox. She can make sputtering, childish shrieks—“We’re on two wheels nowwwwwwwwwww!”—in the midst of guitar/bass grave-digging. Songs merge together with rabid anticipation, so when minutes later Pearl calmly barks out “meet my demands!” it’s not the statement of a single song, it’s another messy contradiction thrown onto a pile of tarnished girlhood, high-school angst, and canny showboating.
Sure, there’s plenty of post-feminist info here to digest, but on a more immediate level BYOP’s debut is just gut-punching, mercurial punk played by boys barely shaving and a young woman hunting anything that moves: “I am wildcat and you are a worm / And we’re chasing each other and taking turns.”