In our weekly MKE Music Rewind, we revisit a notable Milwaukee song that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Shirk, the debut full-length from legendary Milwaukee/Brookfield band Alligator Gun. Back in 1993, the record stood out for two reasons: it was a breath of pop-punk/proto-emo fresh air in a climate steeped in grunge; and it was really, really good. Long available via the ever-vital MKEPunk.com, an expanded and remastered version of Shirk (complete with nine bonus tracks) was just released on SongPreserve.com, Spotify, Apple Music, and all the rest. Proceeds from the release will go to Planned Parenthood.
But that’s not why we’re here today. We’re here today to talk about “Curfew,” a song that appeared on Alligator Gun’s 1995 album Onehundredpercentfreak (though an earlier incarnation does appear on the expanded version of Shirk). It’s one of my absolute favorite Milwaukee songs of all time. Two decades later, it’s hard to wipe the grin from my face every time I hear it.
If there’s a better opening verse in all of Milwaukee music, I’d love to hear it. Starting with a hilariously absurd image and quickly careening into unrequited teenage love territory, “Curfew” pretty much sums up how it feels to be young, hopelessly in love/lust, and thoroughly confused and frustrated about the whole thing:
I kind of wish I had a fish here on my plate
I kind of wish your dad would let you stay out late
Not always thinking ’bout the wrong thing or the right
I kind of wish that you were here with me tonight
I first heard “Curfew” when I, too, was young, hopelessly in love/lust, and thoroughly confused and frustrated about the whole thing. My band had played its first handful of shows at an all-ages venue in West Bend, Wisconsin called—appropriately enough—the West Bend Teen Factory. It produced teens! After one of those shows a girl came up to me and said, “I love you.” I thought she meant my band. “No, I love you,” she replied. What followed was one of those prematurely doomed teenage relationships that lasts all of four months but nonetheless stays with you for the rest of your life. I’ll spare you the details.
Also playing the Teen Factory in those days: Alligator Gun! Somewhere along the line I picked up a 7-inch copy of the band’s Superhero single, which contained the early version of “Curfew” backed with an early version of fellow eventual Onehundredpercentfreak track “Flinch.” I played the shit out of that record, and still do to this day:
The members of Alligator Gun were/are a bit older than me (the band included future Dashboard Confessional bassist/Milwaukee legend Scott Schoenbeck), and, you know, they were actually good, but it was still a hoot to be flirting around the edges of their orbit. I saw them dozens of times until they broke up, and saw them again when they reunited in 2006. I still quietly hum the song every time I see Schoenbeck out and about in Bay View.
I also still remember how it felt to be young and at the mercy of so many outside factors—parents, curfews, your own brain, your own hormones. I don’t miss those days, but sometimes, when I listen to a song like “Curfew,” I kind of do.