I Want to Grow Up is an album rife with the oh-so-juvenile frustrations of its melancholy mastermind Colleen Green. Luckily, the persona that the Los Angeles singer/songwriter sculpts for herself over the course of her latest record is charming enough to grant her the benefit of the ironically self-aware doubt, in spite of the earnestness with which she declares that she is “Sick of being immature / I want to be responsible / I’m sick of being so insecure” at the beginning of the album’s title track.
Green’s shtick relies primarily upon smoothing out the rough edges and realigning the out of key shout-singing of raucous 1990s grunge such as Hole, Nirvana, Mudhoney and other gen-x rock staples, fastening her lean power pop together with a finely polished production and helming it with indiscriminate layers of her own dreamy, breathy voice. The result of this concoction is vaguely comparable to sad girl contemporary Best Coast and the garage rock minimalism of early (read: from five years ago) Wavves, as well as with the atmospheric, fuzzed-out (albeit pretty) warmth of Silversun Pickups, all varnished with touch of harmonized vocals and what must have been some painstaking knob-twiddling.
The songs of Grow Up deal with self-confrontation and revisionism by totally, like, not dealing with it right now. On “TV” Green laments/aloofly observes that “TV is my friend and it has been / With me every day from an early age,” and narrowly avoids sounding as if she’s just repackaging and rehashing standby alternative rock conflicts vy the grace of her millennial attitude;s refined complacency. The lines “Don’t have to worry about conversation / Don’t have to worry about being fun” sound more like a sigh of relief and less like an off-the-cuff satirical complaint than, say, “TV Party.” Which makes “TV” literally a song about how great watching TV is. And who can possibly disagree with that, even if it is stated with listless, disaffected sneer? Green certainly doesn’t sound too broken up over it if the peppy, Weezer-esque dual guitar melody of the song’s coda is any indication. Though the ability to “Pay Attention” is something that has “never come naturally” to Green, she offers her cheeky apologies to the beat of thudding toms and chugging, beefy guitars.
The album’s tracks share similar fuzz-blanketed textures and lengths, with the exception of the six-plus minute “Deeper than Love;” its obviously programmed drums, no-nonsense bassline and Kraftwerk-sounding synthesizer section gradually rise and unite to form a strange, impenetrable industrial barrier, walling the song off from the other cuts of Grow Up. “Deeper” contains what are by far Green’s most interesting lyrics. The electronic cacophony is the perfect musical background over which to proclaim that human interaction has been boiled down by social media to the numbing routine of “Observe and analyze / Empirically hypothesize” and to pose the looming question “Is love being ruined by technology?” Somewhere amidst the oscillation, Green admits that “I don’t wanna think about it / It’s too scary” despite her professed desire to mature just a little bit. The track feels big even though it’s minimalist, and the simple guitar melody that occasionally chimes in over the mechanical churn seems to represent Green’s beloved human element being pushed aside.
The first part of “Things That are Bad for Me (Part I)” sounds like it might turn into a Dinosaur Jr. song, until Green’s cheerleader vocals bounce in to optimistically declare “Gotta stop doin’ things that are bad for me / Cause I don’t wanna live with disease.”
Things That are Bad for Me (Part II) tries hard to be heavy. It tries really, really hard. “(Part II)” crashes through the gate with a towering, sludgy stomp, kicks off with the lyrics “I wanna do drugs right now / I get wanna get fucked up, I don’t care how” and even features a little Jesus & Mary Chain half feedback, half guitar solo section. This track is conflicting, because it’s easy to appreciate the unvarnished, blunt language Green uses to describe the consumptions of intoxicants in the context of wanting to grow up. However, I can’t help but wonder if someone like King Buzzo or Kurt Cobain might have come up with a more conceptual metaphor or other method of expressing the desire to get loaded, complete with a concrete, anchoring image, like some dangerous, grungy chemical that would ground and tie it all together. Made up of three chords with neither grit nor discernible imagination, “Things That Are Bad For Me (Part II)” is almost artless – a kind of empty proclamation. Which to be fair, sounds like an old-fashioned, snobby appraisal of the Ramones – which is what Colleen Green would have us believe she’s going for. Even the alternative rock aspects Green exaggerates as her signature have been done before.
The lyrics of “Some People” (“You found a new girl / A cute girl / To keep you company / …Any girl is just as good as me”) combined with its listing ride cymbal and synth accordions bestow the song with a futurist, hazy ‘60s girl group vibe.
“Grind My Teeth” is a predictably Black Flag-inspired bruiser that melts into the muck of a thick, slow “Nothing Left Inside” dirge with a lead section that sounds only slightly like “Somewhere over the Rainbow” half way through. With nary a stick tap, the song flies back into the grind, but Green and her band suddenly sail into the horizon with “Whatever I Want” before the whiplash can even begin to set in, an apparent reassessment of the singer’s young adult aspirations.
Differing levels of lucidity make I Want to Grow Up easy to listen to but hard to pin down. The first four plodding chords of “Wild One” read like a crudely drawn roadmap of the inevitable, monotonous verse/chorus/verse cut to come, thereby deflating itself before it even gets going. Even though “Wild One” has the whimsical way of a ‘50s car cash ballad (A boy like him will never stick around / a boy like him will never settle down) in the vein of “Leader of the Pack” and “Oh Where Can My Baby Be,” the homage doesn’t compensate for the dreary, trudging feeling that sets in a quarter of the way through.
Green spends almost forty-five minutes telling us how she’s “Sick of being dumb / Sick of Being Young” but after listening to I Want to Grow Up, one could easily remain unconvinced that she’s willing work toward her own professed ideas of maturity, either personal or musical.