In 2006, British indie rock was making noise again. Arctic Monkeys won the Mercury Prize, Franz Ferdinand were already two triumphant albums deep and festival bills were packed with acts that made everything seem feverish and fresh. On the other side of the pond were a band making a whole different racket of their own - Be Your Own Pet, to be specific - and in a year that saw guitar bands churning out more hooky riffs than you could possibly shove in your ears, their debut, self-titled album was rewriting the rulebook.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it all started, but initial demos of tracks like ‘Damn Damn Leash’ (which ended up being the title track on the band’s first EP) created a buzz that had everyone frantically searching their file sharing service of choice for tracks that seemed beyond reach. The extremely fuzzy, scratchy recordings may not have been of the best quality, but what they did show was a band who were primed with an extremely exciting and frenetic energy that - by the time their XL debut came out - was fully formed, biting and vital.
While Alex Turner and co were yelping about their Adidas track tops and bumbling nights out on the town, frontwoman Jemina Pearl was screaming about golden Nashville cornfields, ripping off damn, damn leashes and generally causing the utmost chaos while simultaneously having the utmost fuuuuuun. There isn’t a single track on ‘Be Your Own Pet’ that doesn’t encourage absolutely losing your goddamn shit, or, to paraphrase Pearl on the riotous ‘Love Your Shotgun’, “shoot up like a damn rocket”.
There isn’t a single track on ‘Be Your Own Pet’ that doesn’t encourage absolutely losing your goddamn shit.
What this rowdy Nashville lot - that’s Nathan Vasquez, Jonas Stein and Jamin Orrall as well as Jemina, by the way - cooked up pushed the limits of what it means to make your own fun in a place that’s seemingly deadbeat and downtrodden. Songs like ‘Ouch’ - inspired by George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead - channel the frivolous energy that came from staying up post-midnight as a kid and watching something you’re not supposed to. Then there’s ‘Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle’, an in-your-face power anthem that’s a brilliant two middle fingers up to anyone who thinks that they’re going to walk all over you and not get sucker punched for it.
Across its fifteen tracks (which these days seems fairly sprawling), there isn’t a corner ‘Be Your Own Pet’ doesn’t turn that nearly flips the car three times over. ‘Let’s Get Sandy (Big Problem’ hurtles along at speeds that seem physically impossible and that must have resulted in at least a couple of blisters in the practice room. It’s immediately followed by a breather - ‘October, First Account’ - that shows that the band could be restrained and composed when they wanted to be, resulting in one of the best choruses on the record and one of the best tracks on it at that.
Then, of course, there’s the massive single ‘We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol’ - a dark, sassy, sexually charged pop song that cemented Be Your Own Pet - or, more specifically, Pearl herself - as one hell of a force to be reckoned with. With ‘Be Your Own Pet’, Pearl and her dastardly accomplices tapped into an energy that resonated with kids everywhere that still remains absolutely essential to this day. It was one that yelled at the top of its lungs that you don’t have to settle for what life hands you - kick, shout, scream, flail, lose your mind completely - and most importantly, have a shit-ton of fun while you’re at it.