Years before Warped Tour, MySpace, and the opening of Miami's famed all-ages punk venue Cheers, there was a copy of the Queers' 1993 landmark Love Songs for the Retarded in every truant's backpack.
Faster and more intelligible than Nirvana, abrasive like Black Flag, and filled with as many hooks and harmonies as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, that album inspired every kid with a guitar to start a band. Much like the Ramones in the '70s, the songs were simple enough for anyone to play, yet brilliant enough to stay stuck in one's head forever.
Even though many of the people who used to sing along to "Ursula Finally Has Tits" have outgrown their taste for the two-minute pop-punk tune, there's still something timeless and perfect about leader Joe King's songs. In nearly 30 years of existence, the Queers have seen bands and crowds of kids come and go. But both the band and King have stayed true to themselves — and to punk rock.
With the Apers. 9 p.m. Saturday, January 15, at Churchill's, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission costs $10 at the door.
"We never put money in front [of] our morals," King explains. "I've seen it change a lot of my friends in the music business. We turned down the Warped Tour — [it] was just rock star shit and exactly the sort of stuff punk rock started out against. Everyone's conveniently forgotten that, because they all made money. We started out in the basement playing to have fun."
The group's latest album, Back to the Basement, is business as usual — an onslaught of two-minute songs, buzzsaw guitars, and vulgar and sweet lyrics. The album title is a call to arms, a reminder to the Queers' jaded peers and fans to have fun and go off like no one is watching.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"We were thinking of how everyone likes our early stuff," King remembers. "We would usually go into a studio back then for just like four hours. We'd be short on cash due to buying coke and booze. As long as we were in tune — sort of — and started and ended together, we kept the take."
Of Back to the Basement, he says: "We went for spirit and enthusiasm, like the old days, and didn't waste time picking apart every single note we played. So many producers and engineers have taken the recording process hostage. Honesty and integrity is gone in punk recordings. Everyone uses the same production values used on Top 40 albums. It's phony as hell."
So what should we expect when the Queers roll into Churchill's this Saturday? "We wing it. We don't use a set list," King says. "I feel where the crowd is going and follow their lead."
In other words, the Queers are going to take us back to the basement. Or, since we don't have basements in Miami, we'll trip through time to Cheers in 1994, where we'll drink Mad Dog 20/20 in an '89 Civic and blast Love Songs for the Retarded forever.