This past June, I packed up my guitar, burned my undergrad lit anthologies, and traded the green hills of Vermont for the cracked gray streets and wind-worn murals of Chicagoland. Sights and sounds from my initial months here: off-kilter punkers Mr. Ma’am at Cole’s; Flesh Panthers sweating pure testosterone, tromping the Double Door stage to open for Jeff The Brotherhood; The Tsunamis wailing and screeching through a microphone duct-taped to a broom handle at Wally’s World; Loch Ness Mobsters, up from the Big Easy, getting confessional at Ratt House with “I Finger My Butt.” In those collegiate hills back east, banjo toting indiefolkers and environmentally conscious acoustical crooners were the style; in Chicago, it seems that “garage-rock” is the mot du jour.
Frozen Pizza Disaster dons all the recommended trappings of a 2010’s garage-bummerrock revival: sad-boy musings delivered with deadpan distance, the melancholy of suburban malaise covered over with nods to pop-culture and local obscura (there is the obligatory ode to Hamm’s; the album is dedicated to the ’98 Bulls, Alexi Lalas, and Julia Roberts, among others; the cover features 90s soccer star Alexi Lalas robed in an American Flag). The record’s closer, with its anthemic refrain of “feeling all right without you,” is by all appearances a faded look at a teenage love affair (“here we are alone in the city, the lights so pretty… what are we even doing, everybody ends up moving”), but the title frames it as a song about power forward Carlos Boozer parting ways with the Bulls. This is the calling card of internet era mom’s-garage-rock n’ roll: serious melancholy intimated, then shrugged off with nonchalance, buried by wordplay and cultural ephemera. All this, set amidst a screen of high-end jangle, billowing reverb, and untuned surf melodies, a jaded adolescent’s appropriation of early Beach Boys pop. Album opener “Big Bummer Summer” is case in point: rather than the ecstatic motion of tunes like “I Get Around” and “Surfin’ USA,” garage-rockers like FPD take the infectious energy of late fifties and early sixties pop-rock, but exchange its naivete for irony and stasis.
Beneath the malaise, though, what we’ve got is a troubled yearning not to grow up: to stay couched in the simple emotions of “together” and “not together,” the familiar oddity of cult movies, and the comforting iconography of sports fandom. This undercurrent of nostalgia, the defiance of adulthood, and the clear effort to maintain and curate simplicity is what provides a great part of the bummed-out-garage rocker’s charm. On “Crust Hunks,” Frozen Pizza Disaster embody all of this with ease. Each song is a tightly written pop affair with just the right amount of fray around the edges; the melodies are simple, infectious, and well-placed. It’s a short record, and consistent in quality and focus. “Why” is a highlight for its straight-ahead earnestness of feeling (“I don’t want to lose you”), as opposed to the clever wink-wink of “Carlos Boozer.” “Tsunami Dream” is another, a rollicking, danceable tune evoking a teenage outsider’s discontent––“don’t like those fancy notebooks, don’t like the way the cool kids look”––and perhaps welcoming, in a raucous shout, the unconsciousness of sleep or death by natural disaster as the inevitable (and ultimately desirable) end to all this static and frustration. So, while FPD might not be delivering any surprises (do you really want surprises on your pepperoni pizza?), they serve up a catchy bit of no-frills garage-rock. Stream it, and if it’s your style, give them a tip them for their time.