Home Street Home: Original songs from the shit musical
Written by Fat Mike and Performed by Various Artists
Fat Wreck Chords
If theatre is a classic, foundational world literature, and the contemporary musical is a pop culture lite version, then a punk musical might be either lite lite lit; an artistic accident waiting to happen; or a witty subversion of a number of ancient and modern artistic modes.
Home Street Home the musical, or at least the legacy soundtrack version, may be all three.
The Cast: We’ve got the Innocents (Sue-icide, PD, Special Ed), the Villain (the Father), the charming rogues (the “Urban Campers”), and various other punk scenester-types and one-offs. All the basic support needed to let the story bump rowdily along like a crowd surfer riding a wave of raised fists.
The Storyline: Teens run away from abusive home situations and/or suburban ennui, live on the street, meet and try to survive in gritty environments through illicit means. Plenty of basic struts upon which to brace the punchy, funny, melancholic, sometimes lyrical and confessional, sometimes narrative and expositional, cycle of songs.
The Piano Songs: Several of them, and essentially, sparse musical underlay for very basic narrative exposition. A more subversive Punk Rock take on the classic “Musical” mode may have been, say, to employ black metal grunting (although a few ukelele-driven folksters do add appropriate cheek).
The Fool: NOFX (Fat Mike’s day job) is a band that is expert at musical pastiche and parody, so while there is an earnest element to Home Street Home, the listener might have a hard time sorting the slashing satire from serious sentiment. Best lyrically are songs that play to that band’s strength, such as “Safe Word”, that showcases Fat Mike’s edgier, literate, scatalogical wordplay, or “Three String Guitar” that takes the piss out of artistic pretension. Such songs also do an effective job of populating the streetscape of the drama with appropriate character and characters (although both of these examples could just as easily be stand-a-lone NOFX singles). Otherwise, there is a bit of satire of street punks vs. suburban faux punks, but this potential class-conflict thread is not woven enough throughout the whole to tighten the satire.
Punk’s Not Dead: A few straight-ahead, buzzsaw rippers in the playlist create the proper grating texture and remind us that the main characters probably feature razored haircuts, homemade tatts and multiple piercings.
So what?: Separate from the dramatic elements that take place on stage, Home Street Home: songs from the shit musical is essentially (and logically) a concept album; a multumedia Folio of the stage production. But with a variety of voices, textures and moods, it is still a bit more faceted than, say, American Idiot. Fat Mike has noted that there are more songs in the live performance than in the soundtrack, and some on the soundtrack no longer appear on stage, which confuses matters and modes more. But hey, it is that dervish of anarchy that makes things punk in the first place, an ethos accentuated here by the wide variety of music, from thrash to pop to folk, delivered by the variety of underground musicians Fat Mike has enlisted to help scarred-flesh out his vision.
But is this anything like lit? Even lite, lite lit? Home Street Home the album represents those living at the extreme edge of society whose stories aren’t usually told. (Well, certainly not on Broadway.) And Fat Mike is their poet. (Or at least their Feste.)
Sing along here.