These five songs for the fourth installment of our Best Local Rock Songs Ever series are pulled from some of the best club setlists of that era, IMHO, and listening to them again now, it shows. And not just the influences. Each song is a criminally catchy take on a pop hook, honed in an era when the Nashville rock scene was still a proving ground, a scrappy battle for the big time, when you still had to be twice as good to get anyone outside here (and often inside, too) to care. And although it's a shame some of these bands didn't get more recognition for these tracks and the loads of others from the records they are drawn from, you can still see any number of their members in other, sometimes even better, incarnations today.
Be Your Own Pet, "Wildcat!" (Be Your Own Pet)
Quibble if you will at what makes for the best BYOP song, but "Wildcat!" is a perfect calling card for this band of insiders who blazed hot and burned out fast. At a minute-and-a-half plus change, this bleated punk stomp trims the fat before the meat even hits the carving board. The don't-give-a-shit drums and caterwaul of a guitar part are responsible for the thrill, and are eerily like the band's own history: meteoric, uneven and always threatening to collapse.
Jetpack (now The Nobility), "Mathematics" (The Art of Building a Moat)
With irresistible handclaps, whistling organs and catchy choruses born for big sing-alongs, Jetpack was off earning Features' little-brother comparisons while louder and more outgoing bands stole the spotlight. Too bad: They were dedicated students of '60s pop who wrote hooks by the book. Sure, that book was often borrowed from The Beatles, but "Mathematics" was all Costello, and it had all the chin-jutting attitude of a "Radio Radio," just without any of the sneer — they were far too nice for sneer. Stick around until the video's end for some vintage 2005 scenesters.
Pink Spiders, "Modern Swinger" (Hot Pink)
The Pink Spiders raised their chalice of rock and drank greedily from its cup — the local rock scene could never decide if their slick look and grand ambitions were an inside joke or fighting words, or bewilderingly both. They took a spin in the Gravitron of industry excess with the kind of old-school deal that is all but extinct these days. But in the midst of all the spectacle, they were writing scrappy pop punk that was as undeniably catchy and smart as it was easy to hate. Exhibit A: "Modern Swinger," a buzzy, teen-pop-friendly riff with a caustic edge that nods to Weezer and The Cars, and steeps in the manufactured cool of fast girls, fast getaways, and the kind of misfit characters you'd find in a Grease sequel. In other words, a total blast.
The Privates, "Pocari Sweat" (The Privates)
Listen: YouTube (live)
Bratty, tightly wound pop never sounded so good, no-frills and off-kilter as when slung by the likes of The Privates — a Walkmen-on-fast-forward band of local all-stars who played like they were blowing off all the steam, likely because members Dave Paulson, Rollum Haas, Keith Lowen and Ryan Norris were all committed elsewhere. (They were also The Spin's first victim). Their only crime was not playing enough, and that their blasé attitude about the hustle meant it could never last. No matter, gems like "Pocari Sweat" were among the many perfect pop tantrums the band shot off, a blend of frenzied beats and frenzier guitars that made for one of the best live performances of the day.
Feable Weiner (then Mondo Primo), "Strawberry Debutante" (Dear Hot Chick)
Feable Weiner was like a little slice of Florida in Middle Tennessee. With taut hooks, pitch-perfect harmonies, goofball antics and the unmatchable positivity of crush-addicted 7th grade boys — not to mention the work ethic of Soul Cracker (and the only band with a worse name?) — they made cheez-ay, smart pop that out-grinned the competition in the making-the-hustle-look easy department. But in a universe where Jimmy Eat World can be famous, I'm not sure I'll ever understand why Feable Weiner couldn't conquer the galaxy — a story someone, somewhere should press them to recount over a few glasses of ice-cold chocolate milk (God knows I tried). "Strawberry Debutante" is a shiny-slick encapsulation of what the band did so well: It starts out like a Penthouse letter — the narrator receives a batch of pictures of one "really, really hot chick" sent to the wrong address — but what follows instead is a goofy, surprisingly SFW crush with a nod to the value of reading. It's a pinball-tight pop song whose harmonies kill, and the chorus — "Thought I'd tell you you're hot / You know I like you a lot" — will continue to haunt your head for years. Sorry 'bout that.
Editor's note: Tracy Moore is the former music editor for the Nashville Scene, and she created Nashville Cream. She currently contributes for Jezebel, among other publications, and is working on her first book.