The sequel to Calame’s hilarious Swim the Fly, Beat the Band is best likened to a cover of a song. It’s got the rhythm and words you can’t help tapping your foot to as you tune in to its familiarity – in this case, the well-trodden territory of those teen movies where the most popular or coolest guy at school is dared / betted / forced to spend time with the unfairly outcast girl, only to see her with her hair down for a change (metaphorically and physically) and realise just how gorgeous she is. Sadly, whatever reason put them together is publicly revealed and his former feelings about her exposed. She feels betrayed, he loses what he might have had, and the tension rests on whether he’ll man up to reveal that his real feelings now are oh so different to before.
But every artist has their own take on a song and twists it to their own beat. It might not always be that original, but there’s a reason why it’s popular – you’re enjoying it so much, you just don’t care. The very fact you know the formula might mean there are few surprises, but knowing where it’s headed can also make the ride more tense and fun.
Coop starts out as the sort of guy every teenage girl hopes teenage boys aren’t really like – obsessed with sex and school status, while happily making a fool of those who cross his path. But a lot of boys are like that, and they will love Coop’s brazen attitude as he tries to land the school hotties and get over the fact he’s been teamed with social reject Helen for a health project (and one on contraception too) by winning the school battle of the bands, therefore earning rock god fame, glory and groupies.
As time and band practice goes on, Coop becomes torn between falling for Helen and self-preservation; if anyone gets wind of him liking her, he’ll join her fate of being the butt of every school joke. He is counting down the days until graduation and escape.
There are lots of strong riffs to Don Calame’s writing – the peppy Coopisms, Helen’s social torment and her bravery in the face of it, their growing relationship and Coop’s wising up to what matters, not to mention his band manager dad who is determined to teach them the true meaning of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a lot like reading a US, slightly younger version of the movie, The Inbetweeners – at times gross-out, at times surprisingly insightful, but always engaging, entertaining and full of laughs. Beat the Band totally rocks.