A PUNK ROCK SONG about how radio sucks is hardly a revolutionary concept. Elvis Costello ("Radio Radio"), Stiff Little Fingers ("You Can't Say Crap on the Radio"), NOFX ("Please Play This Song on the Radio"), and far too many other anti-authoritarian bands to list here have vehemently hurled lyrical bricks at the FM dial. "Broadcast This" is a contribution to this well-trod topic, but the tightly wound ball of teenage pop-punk—which kicks off Don't Be a Dick, the debut from East Bay outfit Emily's Army—might strike a little bit too close to home for drummer Joey Armstrong. As in, the son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong.
There is an undeniable level of punk nepotism when your über-famous dad steps away from American Idiot—the hit album, the hit musical, and forthcoming hit movie—to produce your band's debut record and subsequently release it on his Adeline Records imprint. But Emily's Army isn't the punk-rock version of the Wallflowers—spoiled suburban punks clinging to the gilded leather jacket of their drummer's famous father and playing dress-up in their parents' Chuck Taylors. The band (made up of brothers Cole and Max Becker, Travis Neumann, and Armstrong) are quiet about the Green Day connection. At least as mute as one can be in an era when Google reveals all. If it weren't for two generations of Armstrongs appearing on the liner notes, you'd be hard pressed to tie the two together.
"We needed someone to produce it, and my dad said, 'I'll produce it for you.' We're not going to not use that resource," explains Joey Armstrong, fresh from wrapping up another day of 10th grade. "My dad was producer to us in the studio, and a dad to me outside the studio. He gave me professional help inside the studio, and personal advice outside."
The simple fact of the matter is that the energetic Don't Be a Dick owes less to Billie Joe & Co. than to the distinct era (1992) and locale (the dingy walls of 924 Gilman St.) that was so pivotal to Green Day's evolution. This Gilman St. relationship is not lost on the younger Armstrong and his Emily's Army bandmates. Their first concert (if you exclude a friend's birthday) took place in that very venue. "Every Bay Area band plays Gilman—even if they are not famous—it's a home to a lot of people here. It's awesome that we get to be a part of it."
It's rare to be able to pinpoint such an exact time and location—down to the street address—of a band's influence, but listening to Emily's Army harness the carefree style of golden-age Lookout! Records, it's clear the band is a mirror to East Bay pop-punk at its finest. There are elements of the Mr. T Experience, Sweet Baby, the Hi-Fives, plus a few honorary East Bay'ers—Screeching Weasel, the Queers.
(Perhaps this musical fertilization isn't a coincidence, given that this band of 15- to 17-year-olds may have literally been conceived during that precise time and place. I'd like to imagine this is something that happens frequently. Perhaps the parents of a Screeching Weasel member consummated their love next to the dumpster behind CBGB's during the Ramones' fabled 1974 debut?)
Throughout songs like "Burn Apollo" and their ode to the neck-twister of The Exorcist, "Regan MacNeil," Emily's Army encapsulates everything that's right about teenage punk rock. If there is anything to be learned from Don't Be a Dick, it's that you should never trust anyone over the age of 18. Dad would be proud.