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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Quirky Invention of Boris the Sprinkler

Pop Obsessions of Wisconsin Punk

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Before it became safe for shopping mall commodification, punk rock was a way to escape from humdrum Midwest life. Green Bay native Norb Rozek began his adolescent escape via The Ramones. That immersion led to his own combos of varying duration, such as Suburban Mutilation and Depo Provera, and several issues of one of the funnier fanzines covering '80s hardcore, Sick Teen.

 

Christening himself Rev. Norb, Rozek's musical mojo didn't reach a sustained peak until the early '90s when he was recruited by younger admirers to lead what became Boris The Sprinkler. Their name—an amalgamation of a Who song, a nemesis of Bullwinkle & Rocky and an observation of a neighbor watering his lawn—reflects in miniature the quirky lyrical invention, nerdy pop culture obsession and heightened reflections of everyday surroundings that sustained Boris through several albums and a brace of compilation contributions and seven-inch records split among various bands and all their own.

 

The Annotated Boris: Deconstructing The Lyrical Majesty Of Boris The Sprinkler delivers Rozek's line-by-line analysis of most every original song his most notorious aggregation has recorded. If it weren't enough that over 960 footnotes to those tunes delivers a kind of critical history in a treatment more commonly reserved for The Beatles or Bob Dylan (of whose work Rozek recorded a punky tribute album with another act), the tome also acts as discography and autobiography, replete with recollections of sexual conquests and the occasional frustration thereto. His horniness would figure into his songwriting as well, at first in bubblegum double entendre, later more oafishly through couplets he half-feared would attract frat boy fandom. At least as engrossing, and of a less TMI nature, are Rozek's ruminations on the TV, movies, comics, physics, genetics, Taco Bell and a vast, if uniquely personal pop music chronology from which he pilfers. One-time Milwaukee performer Voot Warnings figures among the Rev's nigh innumerable pantheon of influences, associations and references.     

 

Arching over the apparent randomness is the probably not atypical story of a band. Rozek was the flashpoint for Boris' ruckus, but for all involved, it was an opportunity to transcend normality, travel much of the U.S. and some of Europe and be idolized (or at least intensely appreciated) by the scattered tribe that would gather at concerts and buy Boris releases advertised in Maximumrocknroll, one of the grassroots punk publications for which Rozek has written over the years. Their art may never have made them a living, Napster's file-sharing bounty did a number on their finances, and band camaraderie may have disintegrated into petty bickering and apathy; but even as they sought a way out of what they viewed as the limited options and environs they also somewhat celebrated, they got a few of their Warholian 15 minutes of fame out of the trouble. The only major episode of their low-level illustriousness untouched here seems to be Rozek's syndicated afternoon talk show wherein he was introduced to a barely legal punkette crushing on him.

 

But much else is here, narrated in a jivey, articulate manner paralleling the way Rozek would spiel the rants that preceded many of Sprinkler demi-hits. His speech belies a talent that could still take him far in voice over. He has instead deigned to use his super powers to enrich pop punk with amenable goofiness. Boris story relates both specifically to Northeastern Wisconsin in location and more universally in aspiration.