There’s no question that Personal & The Pizzas wear their influences on their sleeves. Jersey accents? Leather jackets? Basic song structures mixed with ripping guitar solos? Raw Pie is an unabashed love letter to the Ramones and The Stooges (and the title is a blatant take on Raw Power). I mean come on, they namecheck The Stooges in their final self-lauding track “Pizza Army” when they sing, “We’re cruisin’ down the road/Got The Stooges on the radio.”
Sure, Ramones disciples are as diverse as U2 and Rancid. But rarely is there a band so devout that they cop riffs, style, and sound nearly verbatim. And yeah, garage acts like Nobunny steal complete verses all the time. But the comparison between these songs and the Ramones is uncanny. “I Don’t Wanna Be No Personal Pizza” is essentially “I Just Wanna Have Somethin’ to Do” with a “Search and Destroy”-esque guitar solo. Actually, their MySpace page, under “sounds like”, states “RAMONES RIFF + ONE STOOGES RIFF + REALLY DUMB WORDS.” Sadly, that’s pretty spot-on.
Add some early punk riffs to these song titles and you can pretty well assume what you’ll get from the album: “Pepperoni Eyes”, “I Can Reed”, and “$7.99 For Love” (wherein we find out that getting a pizza is cheaper than a Taco Bell date). And between songs, you get commentary from Personal, the “New Jersey” frontman, who acts like a thug.
While the influences are obviously solid, and while “pizza party” songs are just as fun as they sound, the gimmick wears thin after a while. Add on some songs about punching someone in the mouth and a song that casually throws around the term “retard” and the band doesn’t exactly come away looking better.
That said, rock stompers like “Pizza Army” and “Pepperoni Eyes” are great pop songs. And it’s not all snotty punk rips– “I Ain’t Takin’ You Out” and “I Don’t Feel So Happy No More” are surprisingly good lo-fi acoustic pop ballads.
But after a few listens, it’s clear that Raw Pie is proof positive that even though the Ramones, The Stooges, and pizza are an excellent muse, an entire album of that hybrid is a bit much. Still, these guys have to be a good time to see live (I hear there’s pizza whenever they can afford it), and if you’ve got a pizza party coming up, certainly add “Pizza Army” to the playlist – a song by the self-appointed “best damn band that you’ve ever seen.”
Live band? Awesome. House party music? Sure. Album? Just okay.