I'm not a Kinks fan but I'm also not-not a Kinks fan. I guess they'd default to my favorite British invasion band but that's a low bar. When I was in high school I really enjoyed their twin hits, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night" and I got one of their collections but it didn't really take. Fast forward to years later when I got into the Raincoats, I came to find out "Lola" was a Kinks cover (and I put together all at once, made an appearance in an episode of Family Ties in which Nick and Mallory were going to run off and get married and Nick wanted them to walk down the aisle to "Lola." What a great show.). THEN, I found out that the Jam's "David Watts" was also a Kinks cover. So when I free up some time, I'm going to open up to the Kinks a little. All of this is besides the point because this post is not a tribute to the Kinks. I'm here to talk about Ben Weasel.
There have been times in my relationship with Pete where we've nerded out in sync to a particular band or style of music we'd previously kind of ignored or abandoned. This has been a bonding experience and always somehow brings us closer together, close as we already are or have been. One of the more memorable instances of this over the last 23 years we've been together is our late-2000s pop punk renaissance.
As I've mentioned, and I think like a lot of people, we kind of abandoned 90s/pop punk in the early 2000s because it'd come and gone in the mainstream and felt a little embarrassing to hold on to. Also in the mainstream, it had drifted into "emo" territory. I think if you're more than 5 years younger than me, you can't possibly understand how confusing, frustrating, and off-putting this turn was. So I'll lay on you a big fat NO OFFENSE but in the advent of the emover haircut, it was time to find something else. Also, as I've mentioned, by the late 90s we were tired of it all. Punk enjoyment takes effort. In any case, we never completely walked away from some of our evergreen favorites, but definitely cooled off.
I don't remember how it happened*, but we both started listening to the Queers and Screeching Weasel on heavy rotation again. We never really walked away from them, but they regained their spot at the center of our universe. We also got into some bands who came along slightly after our time like the Groovie Ghoulies and Chixdiggit. We returned to others that we'd actually walked away from for many years like NOFX (who don't really fit into this category, but I'm putting them here anyway) and the Mr. T Experience. The renaissance was full-blown and we were obsessed.
*If pressed, I would say this started during the lead up to Riot Fest in October 2009, which was the first time either of us had seen Screeching Weasel.
And again, at the center of all of this was Screeching Weasel. They became my favorite band in the world during this time. It was the kind of personal affair with a band where the music is so good and so personal that it all applies to your life. "My Brain Hurts" became my personal anthem. "Your Name is Tattooed on My Heart" was my love anthem. I couldn't even listen to "Handcuffed to You" because it seemed so sad and personal. I ate it all with great abandon. I even loved Ben Weasel's first solo album, the obnoxiously titled Fidatevi (I have to look up the spelling every single time). It's not a favorite among Weasel fans, but I loved it. At the time it was recorded, Ben was experimenting with Buddhism and he was really trying to live his life in a centered way he'd never experienced before. It was great and included "Strangers," a song I didn't know was a cover until years later, when I heard the original on a Spotify playlist.
"Strangers" is gut wrenching. It's a beautiful love song. It might be THE beautiful love song. It's not sad or tragic but triggers a sadness in me every time because it's so simple and so sweet and when you peel back the everyday and the bullshit, it succinctly and accurately expresses how you feel about a partner with whom you match perfectly and completely. See:
So we will share this road we walk
And mind our mouths and beware our talk
'Till peace we find tell you what I'll do
All the things that I own I will share with you
And, if I feel tomorrow, like, I feel today
We'll take what we want and give the rest away
I'm such a sap, I just read that passage and I have tears in my eyes. Pete is sitting less than five feet away from me and has no idea.
Ben Weasel's meltdown and eventual strange turn to alienate everyone who was ever good to him was very hard for us in a lot of ways. We had to completely reorganize our music fandom. The Ben Weasel situation was so bad, it seemed natural to take sides. It is ridiculous to say but his actions felt like a betrayal. It wasn't about the original, infamous woman-punching incident at SxSW, it was about the fallout in which he turned on everyone who'd ever done anything for him. Eventually, we had to let go of most of it because we couldn't shake the reminders of Ben's megalomania.
Letting go was really hard because the times we shared in our deep-dive of Screeching Weasel and Weasel-adjacent music as such a sweet and romantic time for us. From sharing a hardcore french during "Talk to Me Summer" at Riot Fest, to the marathon car rides on our way to EG shows in Pittsburgh, singing and laughing along the way, we had a lot of lovely memories tied to this time. Pete had asked me whether either the Queers or Screeching Weasel made it on this list and I told him technically not and he was like "whoa." Not to end this with a life lesson, but you know what? It's ok. We naturally found other music to share and made new lovely memories. And it's convenient that the most beautiful love song ever recorded by Ben Weasel turned out to be someone else's.