On the debut by Philadelphia's The Tough Shits, one is treated to a cartoon by comic artist Avi Spivak, depicting a cast of characters partying on a seedy boardwalk. It's an indicator of lyrical themes. The realm of The Tough Shits is an insular world of early adulthood: the trials of being let loose for the first time. Being broke. Wanting to date. Not wanting to date.
"Chinatown Bus" is a highlight reminiscent of Richard Hell's "Down at the Rock and Roll Club." It relates the dubious task of taking unlicensed buses to date someone in another town. The journey itself is stated in a simple sentiment: "I hope you get a better seat than I did last week." Rather than describing the bus ride at length, the lyrics weave thoughts about the ongoing affair with allusions to the ride: "I've been down to see you since the moment I saw you." A horrible bus ride can be exciting when sex is at the other end.
The melodies created by the five-piece fuse the advanced pop sensibilities of later Replacements material with the energy of The Exploding Hearts. More than a party record, it's rock music with a calculated punk influence.
The album is like being alone on a roller coaster when you're young: It's exciting, and your parents seem far away.