Sweetbelly Freakdown (I find myself singing this band’s name in my head to Bruce Springsteen’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”) were a punk/hardcore band that formed in Washington D.C. in the mid-1990s, only putting out one full-length album, 1997’s Sweetbelly Freakdown! The band was actually a reunion project of the members that once made up the band Swiz, and they decided to create something entirely new instead of resurrecting their old name.
This record has been sitting on my shelf unplayed for what seems like years, but is probably more like a month. It’s the last of the albums I bought on our last visit to Seattle’s Jive Time Records, and for whatever reason while everything else I got that day made it to the turntable, this one didn’t. I have no idea why this is but it seems to happen with some frequency – there’s always a straggler from every record shopping trip that gets pushed to the side in favor of stuff acquired in the latest and greatest record shopping trip. In this case the last three shopping trips – San Diego, the Sub Pop Mega Mart, and most recently Minneapolis. Sorry guys from Sweetbelly. It was nothing personal, I swear. There were just things newer and shinier on the shelf next to you.
Now that I’m finally playing Sweetbelly Freakdown!, I discovered it’s a damn good album. I was hooked right at the start by “Pleas to the Action Figure”:
Help me Obi Wan Kenobi,
Jesus doesn’t seem to be listening.
You’re the only hope I have left.
There’s nothing left to believe in
Except the power of plastic.
— “Pleas to the Action Figure”
I’ve seen Sweetbelly Freakdown described as hardcore (and also, oddly, as emo), but I’m not buying it. Punk, yes. Hardcore, no. Emo, no… just no. They actually remind me a bit of a band from the early 1990s called Scatterbrain – sometimes funny but always poignant lyrics, mixing up the styles a bit to keep it fresh, and not falling into that punk trap of just playing everything super fast or super loud. The record also comes with a kind of little comic book like booklet with some comic panels and the lyrics to the entire album, so if you find a used copy make sure to look to see if the insert is included.