The best punk tracks can feel like dunking your head in freezing water on New Year’s Day. For a few moments the entire world gets swept aside and you can only really focus on the pure physical sensations that you’re feeling in the moment. It’s not so different than what you’re supposed to feel during the shofar blasts of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
That might be the only Jewish connection I can make to Judy and the Jerks, but it’s enough. Their new album, Music to Go Nuts, is pure punk chaos that throws the listeners into a storm and demands they sink or swim. The Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based group has long reveled in being gross, if not exactly grossing people out: Their earlier work is filled with gleeful songs about goblins and slugs.
“All grown up,” Judy sings on “Future Imperfect.” There are no goblin songs on Music to Go Nuts, although there is a tribute to the perfect Buford burger. You can hear a punk band level up on Go Nuts, keeping the same sense of anarchy while tightening up their sound and their lyrics. The riffs snarls and shred harder, and the lyrics take on a sharp point.
Tracks like “Scorpion” and “California” show the band raising the stakes. On “Scorpion,” Judy (no last name was easily traceable online) takes the perspective of the scorpion that couldn’t stop stinging the frog while they swam together across the river. “You little toad man / with huge green eyes,” she says, “It’s in my nature! I’m built to kill!” What amounts to a chorus is Judy singing over and over again, “You should have known!” As a dancey guitar riff moves underneath.
Right after “Scorpion” is the deeply sarcastic “California,” which mocks and reflects big state dreams from a place not exactly known for its punk sound. “Start a band / tour the northwest,” she muses, “Maybe we can play the Olympia Hardcore Fest!”
“Gossip and rumors will make us lose,” Judy sings on the scene-unifying “Nothing to Prove,” which might also be a good High Holy Day lesson. The gas never lets up on this album, and the guitars go to new heights on the last track, “Control,” the only one on the album to go over 3 minutes. Everything gets heavy, the guitars chug, and Judy is singing about turning off her secret soul. Chaos reigns and it’s a wonderful wake-up call, one of the best punk albums of the year.
David Meir Grossman is a writer living in Brooklyn. His Twitter feed is @davidgross_man.