The title of The Queers' 1990 debut-Grow Up-was obviously facetious. Any album with songs called "Boobarella" and "Burger King Queen" can hardly be considered the work of a mature band. The album was also recorded in an impressively immature fashion. It took three years of sporadic recording sessions, logged whenever the members could scrounge up enough cash and remain relatively sober long enough to commit the material to tape.
The album was then released on the English imprint Shakin' Street, but the label folded after pressing only a handful of copies. Grow Up then wallowed in obscurity before being picked up in 1993 by Bay Area punk label Lookout! Records.
But as MTV's playlist proves, growing up isn't always a good thing when it comes to rock 'n' roll. And though it's impossible to describe The Queers without using words like "silly," "juvenile" and "offensive," such terms aren't necessarily derisive. The band's Ramones-meets-Beach Boys style helped define Lookout's sound during the label's heyday, and their albums have been entertaining, even if they haven't really evolved.
Twenty-five years into his career, frontman Joe Queer (né King) remains the perpetual adolescent, a poster boy for a generation of man-children who get weepy when they listen to old Green Day albums.
For example, King seems deathly afraid of real commitment. He is the only constant in The Queers' revolving lineup. Members come and go and come back again, and the band's history resembles a high-school romance, full of bad breakups and happy reunions. At one point, King was backed by two San Diegans-John Cougar Concentration Camp alumni Chris Fields and Dave Swain. Now, on the eve of a U.S. tour with Australian legends the Hard-Ons and Toys That Kill, he's ditched his rhythm section.
"I had to put Phillip [Hill, bassist] and those guys on probation for drinking too much on the road," he says. "You just can't run around the country acting like a fuckin' 11-year -old. You just can't do it.
"See, I don't drink anymore so I don't need to be surrounded by guys getting fucked up all the time. You just can't do this shit like that-you'll burn out."
Salsaman Dave and Ben Vermin-formerly of Cleveland band Vermin-will fill in until King and the most recently departed members kiss and make up. Fields will join the band at their San Diego gig, an experience akin to one last roll in the sack with a long-gone lover.
Even the most severely developmentally arrested feel old some days, and King is no different. "Honestly, I think I have a few years left in me doing this shit," he says. "I mean, I'll still play and everything, but the touring.... I'm sick of all this punk-rock business bullshit. Me, you, and my mom in a grass skirt could be a band, and as long as we were on [Epitaph subsidiary] Hellcat Records, it would sell."
Like many veterans of Lookout's golden years, King hangs on to the belief that his band mostly appeals to younger fans. Thus, they play as many all-ages shows as possible. It's arguably a poor strategy, considering most long-time Queers fans no longer have to sneak into the parking lot for sips of beer. It's also what's kept the band out of San Diego for several years.
"We used to play the Che Café and we played that place by the beach ['Canes], but the bouncers were total assholes and shit. I dunno why-once Soma closed down, it seemed like there was just no place to play, really." Soma has since reopened, but for their upcoming San Diego date, The Queers will play at The Casbah, a 21-and-up venue.
The Queers are the latest old Lookout band to break ties with the label, following in the footsteps of Avail, Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales and-most famously-Green Day, whose departure nearly sank the long-struggling indie. With the exception of 2002's Pleasant Screams, The Queers' Lookout catalogue is in the process of being re-released on Asian Man Records. King is putting out their latest-a live album called Weekend at Bernie's-on his own Doheny Records.
In the future, King foresees more of what he's been doing since 1982-keeping The Queers going and forming the occasional side project in order to attain something approximating happiness.
"I just want to get back to playing for fun," he says. "Like this project we might have going is going to be me, [ex-Queer] B-Face, Ben Weasel [of Screeching Weasel] and Marky Ramone-it'll be fun, you know? I'm sick of all this business. Back in the day, with Black Flag and shit, they fucking lived it. Darby Crash and The Germs and all that stuff-that wasn't an act; that was their life. Now everybody's acting, and it's just a goddamn fashion show."
The Queers play with the Hard-Ons, Toys That Kill and The Glossines at The Casbah on Sept. 22. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $10-$12. 619-232-HELL.