MTX, Yesterday Rules

[This review originally appeared in All The Rage.]

Yesterday Rules

For the better part of twenty years, The Mr. T Experience (now dubbed MTX) have been stalwart exponents of bratty West Coast pop-punk. Literate yet irreverent, MTX paved the way for Green Day, Blink 182 and a host of others. Whereas “growing up” for other pop-punkers has meant writing confused, over-earnest tracks about war, racism and other weighty global issues, MTX manage to connect maturity and wit with an élan that few others have approached.

Yesterday Rules – their 10th album – has more in common with power pop than their punk forebears. Its clean, chiming electric guitars and abundance of cheery melodies suit singer-songwriter Dr. Frank’s droll lyrical explorations of male-female relations better than clumsy over-driven riffs ever could. On Everybody Knows You’re Crying, Take All the Time You Need, and Sorry for Freaking Out on the Phone Last Night, MTX’s crisp guitars and fluid basslines frame bittersweet vocals and charming harmonies. The results are pop-rock songs that recall the early eighties output of Elvis Costello and the English Beat.

MTX’s strength, however, comes to fore on those songs most unlike anything pop or punk. London features a maudlin yet uplifting vocal and a musical space rarely achieved in guitar pop. The song’s dour refrain – “Don’t tell me your secret lies in London” – is sweet, sad and happy like only the best pop music.

Institutionalized Misogyny is perhaps the smartest pop song on feminism and men and women ever. That it’s also hilarious shows how smart Dr. Frank really is. “If there’s no such thing as objective reality, why can’t we quit our jobs and just imagine we won’t have to pay the rent?” may not seem like a great pop lyric but Frank makes it singable in a tune that also name-drops Woody Allen, Michel Foucault and Chomsky.

As smart as it is amusing, Yesterday Rules is a template for growing up gracefully. While other artists struggle to retain their youth, MTX have made a record that reminds us that it’s often more fun to grow old.