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BOLLWEEVILS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Stick Your Neck Out! (Dr. Strange) 1994
The History of the Bollweevils, Part One (Dr. Strange) 1994
Heavyweight (Dr. Strange) 1995

Chicago's Bollweevils betray their roots with a grinding, buzzsaw guitar sound, very much in the city's hardcore tradition of Naked Raygun and the Effigies. Add cascading bass riffs, rapid-fire drums, a snotty lead vocalist and plenty of speed, and this energetic and entertaining punk band can hold its own in any mosh pit in America. On Stick Your Neck Out!, the Bollweevils rely on the power of lead singer Daryl's (no last names) vocals, which are strong enough to carry the soundalike thrash anthems and supply whatever melody the songs possess. Although the lyrics generally root around familiar punk themes — friendship, loyalty, broken hearts and scene politics — they tend to be more literate than the usual pop-punk fare, especially the stark, eerie "John Doe," which examines the plight of a homeless man turned medical cadaver, wondering what kind of life ended in such squalid anonymity. A hidden bonus cover of Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny" ends the album with a bit of puckish wit.

The Bollweevils are nothing if not prolific; the group's second album collects previously released tracks from four EPs, several compilations and even a Christmas song. The recording quality varies, but not the basic formula: power-chord guitar sound and rallying vocals.

The band shows a bit of growth on Heavyweight, with more complex arrangements and the addition of rousing background vocals to augment Daryl's fiery leads. Everything still rushes along at breakneck tempos, but the lyrics tackle the more complicated, tangled emotions of post-adolescence. "There's a place I've heard of where perfection is standard," Daryl sings in "Utopia." "Where I come from, we don't know it / If you live there, overthrow it." "Major Problems" takes a poke at the legions of punk bands fleeing the indie underground for major labels: "Your music is the rage, 15 minutes it's your fame," Daryl warns angrily. The album concludes with a raveup cover of the Bad Brains' thrash classic, "Pay to Cum," followed by a 12-minute audio tour diary — a waste of time, but good for a few chuckles...once.

[Jim Testa]