OK, so this ‘90s power-pop-punk revival is really happening, isn’t it? The latest band to contribute to the comeback is Chicago’s Pet Symmetry with their album full of dad-pun titles, Pets Hounds. Say it aloud, it sounds like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. The name Pet Symmetry could be based off of the movie Pet Sematary, but the band took it from a friend who was posting fake band names on Facebook. Full disclosure: I inherited my father’s sense of humor, bad dad jokes included – I make jokes at which only 60-year-old men will chuckle. Even I was rolling my eyes at the sheer volume of puns on the track listing. Every song title has a subtitle. Every. Single. One. Some of the subtitles include a pun based on a famous songs, like “Use Your Illusion III (Knock-Knock-Knockin’ on Evan’s Door)” plays on Bob Dylan with a nod to their own singer/bassist Evan Weiss, and “Spacial Ex-Perception (No.. Sleep.. ’Til Bedtime!)” is pulling from The Beastie Boys (and is actually about bedtime.) Then there’s “Cereal Killer (Rellik Laerec)” because, you know, it’s cereal like the food but it sounds like serial like a repeat murderer (but the lyrics seem to be more about committing crimes against people than against breakfast foods.) Puns! When you realize that the bassist/vocalist is Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. and Their/They’re/There, the titles and band names all fit together. The group is rounded out by pun-supporters Erik Czaja (guitar) and Marcus Nuccio (drums.) I guess I can’t know for sure that they’re pun-supporters, but they didn’t put a stop to the puns, did they?
Despite the titles, the songs themselves aren’t so punny. The subject matter is more emo than the titles let on. As mentioned above, “Spacial Ex-Perception” is about bedtimes, but it’s really about being too old and tired to stay up past one’s bedtime during a conversation in which emotional baggage is unloaded. Depression, lethargy, and unfinished chores are covered on “My Exhausted Month (of May,)” so it’s really not all fun and games on Pets Hounds. “Salad Daze (Seein’ Cred)” seems to be about struggling to keep up with others. “Give Thanks (Get Lost)” and “Go Outside (Stare at the Sun)” both cover leaving things unsaid with someone, whether it’s because you can’t think of the words or because you can’t call them anymore. This isn’t the emo you listened to in high school, millenials, this is emo for a slightly older crowd. Sure, we could stay up all night listening to Dashboard Confessional thinking about our unrequited crushes back in the early aughts, but now we’re old and we can listen to Pet Symmetry thinking about crippling depression until our respectable bedtime.
It’s not all doom and gloom, this is power pop! The songs are well-constructed, they’ve got the catchy little hooks and repetition that power pop needs. The album is low on distortion, it’s used very sparingly aside from on the first single, “Give Thanks (Get Lost.)” It opens with heavy distortion that sounds like the album just went from ‘90s emo to ‘00s emo (when it got extra angsty and added a little metal edge.) You tricked me, Pet Symmetry. The sound only lasts for a few seconds, then it’s back to distortion-free power-pop. There’s a bit of piano in the background on a few songs, hidden very carefully, but it’s there. “Class Action Force (Useless Tools)” has a good bass line throughout that gives the song a dark overall feeling. These songs are all pleasing to the ear, there’s no cacophony and Weiss’ voice has just enough of a nasally sound to fit the genre, not enough to get annoying. Fitting the pop-punk recipe for songwriting, these songs are short: four of the ten tracks clock in at under two minutes, only one is over three-and-a-half minutes.
The band lists their genre on Facebook as “geekmo,” which is geek + emo for those that are out of the loop and can’t jump to logical conclusions. Back in my day, combining the two words would have been seen as redundant, but I guess it’s the right combination considering all of those pun titles. If you’re into the pop-punk/emo revival and you don’t mind ridiculously long song titles, this is a pleasing album. Don’t judge this album based on their song titles, though; judge this album based on where you stand on the emo revival. Or judge it based on how you feel about a grown man repeating “it’s my bedtime/ it’s past bedtime,” which actually happens.