Six Best Lookout! Records Releases

Categories: Nitpick Six

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Lookout! Records officially shut down this month, which is not shocking news to anybody familiar with the long-running punk rock label. The company's financial struggles were well known to the public, and since 2006 it has only stayed in business to keep up its back catalog. In honor of the influential and prolific label, here are the six best Lookout! records releases. Feel free to note the absence of your favorite Boris The Sprinkler record in our comments.

6. The Mr. T Experience - Love Is Dead

Lookout! Records spent the 1990s as the principal enabler of Ramones-endebted pop punk. Screeching Weasel, Pansy Division and the Riverdales called the label home. So did The Mr. T Experience, who has mastered the art of the two minute, peppy, boy-loves-girl song by its 1996 album Love Is Dead. There's the she's-so-hot opener "Sackcloth And Ashes." There's the double entendre "I Just Wanna Do It With You," which is actually about doing stuff. There's a pretty heartfelt sentiment in its closing track when frontman Dr. Frank sings "I don't want to get screwed over by just anybody / You're the only one I want to get screwed over by." What separated MTX from the fold was its nerdy sense of humor, more of an awareness and acceptance of its refusal to mature than simple goofiness ala Nerf Herder or the Queers.

5. Avail - Over The James

When Avail was active, the Richmond band was classified as melodic hardcore. This basically meant that vocalist Tim Barry was capable of screaming and singing, and that the band wasn't afraid to lighten up the fast, loud, angry formula with some tender moments. It is dangerous to flirt with the "e-word," but Over The James is teeming with emotion, the way the feelings shift with every movement of a power chord. When the tonality slides into a major key and Barry's voice sheds its gravel, Avail is damn near revelatory. As simple of a trick as it sounds, it's those bright moments that make the band's best Lookout release Over The James so anthemic and powerful.

4. Hockey Night - Keep Guessin'

If you know Hockey Night, you probably didn't hear about them through Lookout! The label stopped putting out new records after releasing the Minneapolis band's Keep Guessin', and the group only achieved significant notoriety after it ditched a few members, moved to the East Coast and changed its name to Free Energy. While the circumstances around the album are discouraging, Keep Guessin' is anything but; a freewheeling indie rock record with Pavement-y slack and Thin Lizzy triumph that is better than most Built To Spill records. Opener "Get Real" is a summer road trip in song form. "Saturday Night Gallop" sounds exactly like a track called "Saturday Night Gallop" should, like cruising main street on horseback. And yes, there are two drummers. And yes, that is better than one.

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7 comments
New York City Hotel
New York City Hotel

You are right, Squealing Weasel should probably be on this record. Also, Acrossthe country Bracelets has to be one of the top 5 or 10 punk mountainstone mountain precious stone companies of the 90's

Big_oaf2
Big_oaf2

     Screeching Weasel should probably be on this list. Also, American Steel has to be one of the top 5 or 10 punk rock bands of the 90's

Scott
Scott

Squirtgun's self-titled album was outstanding.  Should have been included.

Jason Toon
Jason Toon

When I got into punk in 1990/91, it was a dark time indeed... finding Lookout! was huge. There really WERE still people making smart, catchy, funny, interesting punk records! 

Along with Ted Leo, MTX, Op Ivy, and Green Day, my own list would also include things like the Donnas' "Get Skintight", Moral Crux's "Something More Dangerous", Screeching Weasel's "My Brain Hurts", American Steel's "Rogue's March", and the most underrated record in the label's history, the Ne'er Do Wells/Judy and the Loadies split. 

Oh
Oh

I always got a more sea shanty vibe from Stove by a Whale.

Mike Appelstein
Mike Appelstein

It's all about the Kamala & The Karnivores 7", in my opinion.  And Isocracy's "Bedtime for Isocracy," the cover of which still makes me laugh decades later.

Rob Wagoner
Rob Wagoner

I would probably include "The Donnas Turn 21" as well.  The early Lookout! days were pretty damned exciting, definitely a rebirth of the US punk ethic when the Krishna Jocks were taking over the east coast.  It was exciting, optomistic, and innocent.  I remember seeing Green Day perform at a backyard birthday party in Oakland in '89 on a piece of plywood to about 10 disinterested people.  I bought the 1st album from the back of Billie Joe's hatchback and knew even then bigger things were to come.  I was 24 and felt ancient.

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