Punk was never about such blase conformity. It was about provoking a reaction, forcing somebody to speak your band's unspeakably bone-headed name, or inciting whispers at the bar of "are these fucking guys for real?"
Jaime Paul Lamb lives for such unfiltered absurdity, and nothing Phoenix has seen for years has vied harder for your minimal brain synapses than his latest project, Puppy and The Handjobs. This bogus nuclear family of fake mom, dad, and doggie crank out hilarious manifestos like "I Eat Abortions," "That's Bullshit," "I Don't Care About Anything," and "I Hate Everything."
At Puppy's last Valley show at the Lost Leaf in January, the reaction was a tad too muted for Lamb's taste. After all, here is a grown man clad only in a diaper and limited-vision sunglasses being brutally led on a leash to the stage, where he and his parental cohorts Suzy Handjob (Andrew Jemsek) on bass and Bobby Handjob (Matt Spastic) on drums thrashed their way through over a dozen songs geared for the transient scrutiny of downtown music patrons. Every time Lamb as Puppy takes a guitar solo, it usually culminates with some psychotic rolling around on the floor, some minor collision with Suzy Handjob's bass, and the occasional impaling of a body part on some protruding bass drum hardware. For his part, drummer Bobby shows a Charlie Watts-like disinterest. If he were to avert his gaze frontward, he'd survey more hairy asscrack in one 30-minute set than a refrigerator repairman inspector sees in an entire week.
In Lamb's estimation, the audience was "hip and aloof as if we're a jazz band or something, like they're going to be popping their fingers after every tune. They might as well be wearing berets and reading Kerouac if they're gonna be that stupid. We might as well play in coffee shops."
Puppy and The Handjobs better achieved the desired effect in Miami, Arizona, "where they're not douchey, jaded scenester people who think they already know everything. I had half of my hair and half of a mustache and we went into a Mexican restaurant and got looked at by everybody. It was very much like when I was a teenager — if you looked weird, you were worthy of getting beat up by somebody with a tool belt, where they would yell shit at you from their cars, throw full Slushies on your brand new Black Flag shirt and ruin it."
Lamb's own punk rock resume in Arizona goes back to the early '90s, most notably with The Van Buren Wheels from 1997 to 2000 and a slew of other ruffian punk outfits in Texas, Nevada, and California before and after that. Many of these tracks are collected on WE'RE LOUD, a compilation released by Slovenly Records.
In his recent return to Phoenix, Lamb has been toiling in the popular exotica-lounge band Moonlight Magic, whose meticulous recreations of bossa nova, surf, ska, calypso, and cumbia would seem the schizophrenic opposite of Puppy's hastily scribbled, haphazardly played repertoire. On Saturday, April 20, for Record Store Day, both Puppy and the Handjobs and Moonlight Magic will be playing the Record Room, and Lamb will have to contort himself from a disciplined bandleader into the mind space of Puppy, who he describes as "a male, juvenile, recently neutered Bichon."
Before each show, he says, he enters a "tulpa," a compartmentalized aspect of one's psyche. Unhappy about his childhood, years of drug addiction and learning too many jazz chords, Lamb is able to enter this altered state of mind and forget about the past. "And I’m able to go there for a while with my new family here."
Jemsek and Spastic have their own tulpas as Suzy and Bobby Handjob, a couple unable to conceive children. Jemsek portrays Suzy in a laughably unconvincing falsetto while Spastic puffs on a pipe and tries to act like a strong and stoic patriarch.
Their debut EP on the Black Gladiator label out of York Pennsylvania clocks in at seven minutes and 20 seconds, oddly enough the same time Lamb claims it took to write and record it. Currently, the band is working on a full-length album, but with songs being sheared shorter and shorter, it's hard to fill up two sides of vinyl. They have to keep churning songs out.
"A lot of the new tunes are definitely under a minute. At this rate, we're going to be in negative running times," says Lamb, who foresees a day when their boundless minimalism will transcend music altogether and Puppy and The Handjobs will be the first non-musical punk band.
"There would be no music played or listened to, a platonic form of punk before it becomes a physical thing," Lamb says, "which would be nice to get to, 'cause then we wouldn't have to load up all the gear. We would just have to think about it, not even leave the house, and then people would have that communal experience."
He continues, "And the audience wouldn't even need to say, 'That's so punk rock.' Because they'd all know."
Puppy and the Handjobs. 3 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at The Record Room, 2601 West Dunlap Avenue, #21; 602-460-0040; facebook.com/TheRecordRoom. Free.