Weston's 'Got Beat Up' Turns 18: The Ultimate High School Album Is Finally Legal
It's old enough to drive, vote, and be arrested for shoplifting, but it somehow never ages.
There are many albums that people equate with high school. Most of them are packed with tales of first loves, the sting of lockerside romance, and of course, sophomoric humor. People will often look towards albums like blink-182’s Dude Ranch, New Found Glory’s self-titled record, or MxPx’s Life In General as standout examples. But much like that kid who got a full page in the yearbook dedicated to him, they can all crash a car into a tree on prom night because Weston’s Got Beat Up is the best one.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Weston (which is unlikely because there’s no way you would’ve clicked on this link if this wasn’t your favorite high school album too), Weston was a 90s pop punk band from Bethlehem, PA. They never “made it big” or “broke out” and they largely missed the wave of pop punk’s commercial success (though they did have an album on Mojo Records, a subsidiary of Universal). They’re one of those bands that people will either cite as having changed their lives or have no knowledge of whatsoever. I, very much, am the former.
Got Beat Up is Weston’s second album and is largely considered to be their best work. From the opening chord (a really wonky version of a B), I can smell the gym shorts I didn’t wash for four years, I can taste the icicle-in-the-middle Jamaican patties from the cafeteria, and I can almost remember the facts I learned from cramming for those standardized tests (just kidding, those were colossal wastes of time and I’ve never used the quadratic formula once in my entire life).
Weston, as photographed by, very appropriately, my high school girlfriend.
The album’s opener is a little diddy called “Retarded.” The chorus proudly and lovingly declares: “You are so retarded, I must be retarded too!” Now, I know the word “retarded” (or “the r-word”) has a bad stigma attached to it. People don’t like hearing it because it’s considered insensitive to people with learning disabilities. It’s not an “OK” word to say in 2014. It wasn’t really “OK” to say in 1996 either, but even more so not "OK" now (thanks a lot, OBAMA). And I get that. It’s an un-PC term. But sometimes it’s important to remember that words are just things that people make up, nothing more. And the way Weston sing the word “retarded” is the best case for the harmlessness of the word as you’re gonna get. It’s really hard to be offended by a song whose opening lyrics are "Friday night, out of sight.” “Out of sight!” When was the last time you heard that phrase outside of a 1950s sock hop? The song is so saccharine that getting angry with Weston for saying “retarded” would be like being mad at an infant wearing a Hitler mustache.
Besides questionable word choices, Got Beat Up also has a penchant for clothing imagery. Six songs in, the album breaks out into a very Gin Blossomsy song called “Your Summer Dresses Bore Me” about a break up as represented by a girl’s apparently dull summer dresses. There’s also a song called “Varsity Sweater” about messing around with the football captain’s girl. (I’m trying to think of a single physical item to more appropriately represent high school than a jock’s letterman jacket and I can’t do it. Acne, maybe? Premature ejaculation?) And rounding off the theme of the-teenage-experience-as-told-through-symbolic-articles-of-clothing is a song called “New Shirt,” a very simple, 54-second song which lays even more sappy high school imagery on thick with the line “I thought maybe you might wear my ring if I wore that striped short sleeve shirt...”
What follows those words is the best transition in music history.
A three-count on the hi-hat and a quick jump into a song called “Heather Lewis.” “Heather Lewis” is a song about a girl named Heather Lewis and the chorus goes “Heather Lewis! Heather Lewis!” (Weston are not much for subtlety.) Today, when I'm listening to the album through the magic of the internet, Spotify—without fail—will choose this moment between songs to throw in an obnoxious ad for H&R Block or whatever, making me look like a total jackass right as I'm about to rock out in full force. But on the Discman I owned in 1999, the transition was always as smooth as the face of Dana Vimiano, who was a girl I had a huge crush on in freshman year and who I looked up on Facebook just now and who apparently got married last year. OH WHAT THE HELL, DANA VIMIANO? What’s this guy got that I don’t have? Is it his brown eyes? (Sorry, that’s a reference to a different pop punk record for another day.)
What sets Got Beat Up apart from the mountain of 90s pop punk albums of teenage hopeless romanticism is that it truly sounds like the band got in a Delorean after playing the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in 1955 and somehow ended up on Go Kart Records in 1996. The album paints some pretty distinctly dated imagery of make out spots, soda shops, carving names into desktops, and sitting on a school bus. In my head, I’ve always pictured the whole thing in black and white or that muted color scheme like on Happy Days. The only semi-modern reference the album makes is to Shoe Goo, which is something you’ll only remember if you routinely destroyed your Airwalks from doing sick kickflips faster than your mom was willing to buy you new ones.
In case you’re wondering about the title, Got Beat Up does feature a title track about getting beaten up. Sort of. The song is only 36 seconds long. So to call it a “concept album” is as ambitious as that time you tried to give an oral report on the symbolism in A Tale of Two Cities after only reading the Cliffs Notes. Getting beaten up on a Friday night and calling your older brother at college for help isn’t much of a “concept” but it does capture what the album is about at its heart: vulnerability, ineptitude, growing into your body faster than your mind is ready to, developing mature feelings you’re too young to understand, and social awkwardness. In other words, adolescence.
Weston playing a gymnasium in their underwear in 1996.
After 13 gloriously nostalgic songs capturing the timeless experience of surviving high school, Got Beat Up winds down with a slower acoustic closer called… wait for it, because this is the most high school poetry title of all time… ”Heartbreak Sandwich” about a girlfriend going off to college. The album ends much like high school does: parting ways with the people you grew close with over the last four years. And with lines like, “I know I gave you a dirt sandwich, when you need to cry, and I wanted to kiss,” it sounds like something a C-student would turn in to a creative writing class. But goddamn if I don’t still get weepy hearing it.
Got Beat Up turns 18 years old today. It can drive, vote, and be arrested for shoplifting. But unlike the classmates at your high school reunion, the album will never get fat or lose its hair or plunk out a couple of kids and constantly post the same goddamn photo of them on Instagram. Mainly because it is an album and not a human being and that is crazy talk. But also because Got Beat Up is aging-proof. It is not the creepy guy in his mid-20s who still hangs out by the high school in his Camaro, smoking cigarettes. It is the initials you carved into a tree that you can still walk past and smile. It's about being young, falling in love, and sometimes, getting beaten up.
Dan Ozzi is dull compared to sororities. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi