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When Katherine Bergeron, the new president of Connecticut College, was on an early tour of the campus, she and two other dignitaries were led into Fortune Studio, the school's world-class 32-track recording facility.
One of the first things she saw was the moderately ursine figure of Tim Donnel, bassist for Straight to VHS, New London punk/garage titans. He was standing on a chair, wearing only boxers and socks, energetically overdubbing a bass line in the pure energy of the music - and most would agree that, as a snapshot moment, it was a fine introduction for Bergeron into the fertile artistic scene of her new city.
"She thought it was hilarious, though they might have been a little overdressed for the occasion," says Jon Young, the band's guitarist/vocalist. "But she comes from a musical background and she was very cool."
The result of those recording sessions is the brand new Straight to VHS album, "Weekend Weekend Weekend," which the band will celebrate with a release party Saturday in the Hygienic Art Park. Copies of the album and commemorative T-shirts will be on sale, and the Supreme Hot Dog folks will be on hand purveying fine chili dogs. Plus: a fine musical bill has been assembled for the occasion. Along with VHS, Heap, The 3-Pack and Anderson Family Picnic will also perform.
"Weekend Weekend Weekend" is hilarious and roaring, the 11-song equivalent of a whitewater trip down a raging river of beer with the ghosts of Joey Ramone, Ron Asheton and Lee Ving cheering from the banks - even though Ving's not dead and thus could actually be on the shore in corporeal form.
Of course, that sort of conceptual fun indelibly reflects the idea of a "weekend," and the title comes from a song called "Punk Rock Black Chicks." In perhaps excellent VHS fashion, the phrase wasn't actually in Young's original version of the tune. But drummer Jay Silva misheard the lyrics and thought Young was singing "Weekend weekend weekend."
"It was perfect," Young says. "I wrote the phrase on my shirt and Jay ended up changing the lyrics. It sort of became the anthem for the whole project because we all work day jobs all week long and go for it on the weekends."
Straight to VHS has always had that sort of attitude, wit, spirit and ardor - but "Weekend Weekend Weekend" is the first time they've truly captured all of those qualities on a recording.
"It's a great sounding studio," Donnel says, "and (house engineer) Andrew (Oedel) was awesome to work with. He's around our age and understood what we were trying to go for and made it really easy."
A sense of fraternal camaraderie is also at the base of the Straight to VHS magic.
"We're brothers through and through," says Silva, "and with that kind of tight-knit connection, it builds confidence and excitement and lets our humor shine through."
Indeed, "Weekend Weekend Weekend" contains the band's best batch of songs - driving, super-glue-catchy and very funny in the fashion of the best observational comics. "Bitch, You Ain't No Ninja" describes a fictitious character that sprang from a bit of graffiti Young saw a few years ago - a photo of which was on the cover of their previous album, "Rewinder." "Cart Pushin' Man" is a portrait of a guy Silva once saw who relentlessly pushes a grocery cart up and down the beach at Atlantic City and who, Silva was led to believe, was once a professional wrestler.
Part of the magic of the tunes is that VHS isn't afraid to expand the template of the typical punk song - as on "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," when the running-with-the-bulls tempo suddenly downshifts into a brief but majestic piano/vocal break that recalls Bloodrock's immortal death ballad, "DOA."
"For a lot of songs on the album, we're trying to step out of the VHS box a little bit and try some things we wouldn't normally do," Young says. "I love the Beatles and one of the great things about them is how each album progressed. We're trying to do that and part of it was to make this record sound a lot more professional."
Straight to VHS CD Release Party, 7 p.m. Saturday, Hygienic Art Park, 79 Bank St., New London; with Heap, The 3-Pack and Anderson Family Picnic; $8; (860) 443-8001.