In case you missed the memo: Ben Weasel loves to hate the punk rock scene. As far back as Screeching Weasel's classic 2nd album BoogadaBoogadaBoogada, he has been penning songs full of vitriol towards his contemporaries ("Nicaragua", "Punk Rock Explained", "Hey Asshole"). If that weren't enough, the voluminous liner notes that have accompanied several of their albums have made it clear that he doesn't care for the very genre that gives him his voice to complain about it.
It isn't even just fellow performers, either. The fact that his self-proclaimed magnum opus Emo was generally dismissed by fans and critics alike bothered him to no end. Sluggish sales of (his alter-ego band) Riverdales' Storm the Streets irked him to the point of mentioning in one of those infamous liner notes. It seems that things just never seem to go his way.
This acidic bitterness actually created much of the appeal to Weasel's catchy anthems for many years. As the band approaches its 25th year, however, the anger seems to have gotten personal, and with that slight change, the fun just evaporates from the picture.
First World Manifesto is the first Screeching Weasel album in 11 years, but that doesn't mean that Ben Weasel has been inactive since the beginning of the millenium. Riverdales have released several increasingly excellent albums, and he even released two solo albums (the second of which was simply fantastic). So, while this might be a grand return to the casual fan, those that follow closely know that this is simply another Ben Weasel album. Particularly since (the only other constant member of Screeching Weasel since its inception) John Jughead is not present, though Danny Vapid has made his return to bass duties. (This "return" is not so surprising, since Vapid has been performing with Weasel in Riverdales over the last decade.)
The album is above-average pop punk, and is pretty entertaining for the most part. Former record label-mates Dr. Frank and Joe King (of The Mr. T Experience and The Queers, respectively) show up for guest vocals, which is a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the catchy, goofy, simple punk tunes that encompass the majority of the album are overshadowed in some ways by the few tracks that angrily snark punk rock scenesters (a very edgy group to mock, to be sure). The fact that specific festivals and bands are mentioned by name (including Fat Mike, the owner of the very label that is distributing this album) takes the timelessness out of the songs, and renders them hardly more interesting than a blog posting. Where a song like "Fathead" (from My Brain Hurts) is still fun today, since the subject is left anonymous, "Follow Your Leaders" falls flat because of the obvious Bouncing Souls reference.
First World Manifesto won't go down in history as one of the great Screeching Weasel releases, but it's adequate. Personally, though, it only makes me want to listen to the last two Riverdales albums, and Ben Weasel's These Ones Are Bitter, since they all pointed towards a more mature songwriting craft that First World lacks.
First World Manifesto - 6 out of 10
Edited To Add: It seems that Ben "Weasel" Foster's ignorant attitude has taken the form of action on stage, and as such the entire band has quit around him. I don't blame them, as what I've heard happened on stage is inexcusable and disgusting.