The Scruffs

Picture of The Scruffs

Wanna Meet The Scruffs?

The Scruffs - Wanna Meet the Scruffs? ©1977 Rev-Ola
1. Break The Ice
2. My Mind
3. You're No Fun
4. Frozen Girls
5. I've Got A Way
6. Tragedy
7. This Thursday
8. Revenge
9. She Say Yea
10. Tommy Gun
11. Sad Café
12. I'm A Failure
13. Bedtime Stories
14. She Say Yea (demo)
15. Break The Ice (demo)

You certainly should!

The Scruffs were a fantastic power pop band that emerged from Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid/late seventies, right alongside keystone luminaries Big Star. However, while Big Star's legend only rose with the passage of the years thanks to retroactive recognitions of greatness and heavy accolades heaped on by the likes of R.E.M. and The Replacements (amongst many other noted groups), The Scruffs sadly drifted into the status of "the lost cult band with one great album". Although reissues and recent recorded activity have done a little bit to raise The Scruffs' profile, the band is still hardly a household name, even amongst those with more left-on-the-dial tastes. This is too bad, especially considering that The Scruffs rocked harder than Big Star ever did, and even if they can't claim the level of influence which Alex Chilton's outfit apparently had, they at least deserve credit for having the chops.

Not that The Scruffs are even necessarily doing the same thing as Big Star. While the two groups both possesse certain elements common of the power pop genre (big, catchy choruses, rampant melodics, and fairly straight forward instrumentation), Big Star (for the most part) seemed more preoccupied with balancing their discography between epic, sweeping pop hooks (no matter how commonplace the lyrical subject matter), and unspeakably gorgeous, delicate melodies. On the other hand, The Scruffs, as their name implies, were a far scrappier breed. Bashing out joyful poptones with all the zest and abandon of a wide-eyed youth with the whole world ahead of them, it is songs such as "Break The Ice", "My Mind", "You're No Fun", and "This Thursday" that straight-up epitomize the care-free summertime "Let's GO!" teenage zeal that most of us have felt at some point or another, before we get older and (all too often) get anchored to our jobs/bills/family. The bulk of these songs are monstrously catchy, delightfully unpretentious, and excellently played, and a smaller (but nonetheless sizable) number are instantly memorable as well. Songs topics range from girls, to hanging out, to (being bored by) girls, to not having money, to girls, to being a failure, to girls, and that's all the lyrical diversity that an album like this really requires, for the most part. Happy, jangly riffs are plentiful, explosive lead breaks burst into your ears from out of left field (for the finest example of this, check out the white-hot "Frozen Girls"), and the vocals are high, decidedly Anglo-bent, and perfect for singing along to. I'd hate to be given to hyperbole by calling this album "perfectly executed", but yeah: This album is pretty much perfectly executed.

If you really love music, and I assume most of the people who would be reading this do, then surely you remember those albums that you stumbled upon, probably for the most part when you were younger and more fresh-faced, that just made you feel all giddy and excited over how awesome music could be. I started out with punk rock, so for me those early albums were Ramones Mania, The Misfits' Collection I, and Minor Threat's Complete Discography, amongst others. I'm not really that old as of this writing, but I am lot older than I was when I first discovered those classics, and I've sure as hell heard a lot more music (and become a bit more jaded) since then. Nonetheless, Wanna Meet The Scruffs? reminds me of everything I initially liked about music in the first place, and fills me with the same sort of gleeful enthusiasm I had as when I tossed on "Blitzkrieg Bop" or "Astro Zombies" for the first time. If you like power pop or catchy rock and roll with big hooks, this is not an album to sleep on. The Scruffs may never be the most famous or "influential" power pop band from Memphis, Tennessee, but then again, they hardly need to be. Wanna Meet The Scruffs? is nothing short of a youth-pop triumph, regardless of how many better-known musicians choose to acknowledge it.

Note: The CD reissue of Wanna Meet The Scruffs? features two demo versions of album tunes tacked on as bonus tracks. Although slightly rougher and ultimately inessential compared to the official album versions, they still sound great…so if you can find a version that includes them, why not?

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 02/2010

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