When a band reunites at the request of a notable musician a decade and a half after their breakup it’s usually because said band has garnered a considerable amount of notoriety in their absence, perhaps their sound was ahead of its time and nobody “got it” initially. Maybe the band called it quits due to internal conflict between members or someone in the group passed away. Maybe the band was signed to a dubious indie that disappeared along with the band’s recorded output and money. The story of Tennessee punks Be Your Own Pet’s dissolution and resurrection is different because none of the typical reasons a band disappears and reappears apply to them.
Between 2004 and 2008, Be Your Own Pet, a four-piece consisting of singer Jemina Pearl, guitarist Jonas Stein, bassist Nathan Vasquez, and drummer John Eatherly, released a handful of EPs and two LPs that garnered largely favorable notices in some major music publications. In 2008, less than five months after the release of their second studio album, Get Awkward, Be Your Own Pet broke up due to misogynistic treatment endured by Jemina as well as a sense of general exhaustion brought on by the demands of the music industry. In 2021, at the entreaty of one of the most successful American rock musicians of the last twenty years, that being Jack White, Be Your Own Pet reunited and opened for White during a few dates of his Supply Chain Issues Tour. The band soon after signed with White’s Third Man Records and in late August of this year released their third full-length album, Mommy.
The super-clean production on Mommy is consistent throughout the record’s thirty-six-minute running time, and this is demonstrated immediately during the dramatic starts and stops on the album’s excellent first song (and second single), “Worship the Whip”. Here, Pearl conjures the spirit of Winona Ryder’s character in the 1988 black comedy Heathers as she sings, “Lick it up, baby, lick it clean!” during the pre-chorus. “Goodtime!” doesn’t work as well as its predecessor, coming across as a combination of energetic call and response punk and whiny eighties new wave, à la The Waitresses. These minor complaints aside, the song does include a decent solo from guitarist Stein. “Bad Mood Rising” slithers along nicely with a pulsing lead that effectively shadows the song’s lyrical theme evident in its title. “Pleasure Seeker” highlights Stein’s frequently excellent guitar work with a hook that, if not for it being roughed up tonally, wouldn’t sound out of place if it came from an eighties glam metal band.
Mommy’s second side opens with “Rubberist”, a song that prominently features Nathan Vasquez’s bass with Stein adding pleasant splashes of funk guitar color. “Hand Grenade”, Mommy’s lead-off single, shows up late in the sequence and features Pearl’s best writing and vocal delivery as she emphatically sings, “I’m not your victim, I’m my own person, I’m not some casualty, I set myself free.” Mommy is concluded with “Teenage Heaven”, a song delivered firmly in the vein of late-fifties balladic pop complete with a slowly strummed guitar, a swooning, reverb-soaked chorus, and lyrics about being held tight before dying behind the wheel of a car. Mommy is a fine return that proves Be Your Own Pet hasn’t lost the charms that made them so memorable to the high-profile supporters who encouraged their reunion.