From Now On, Album Names Can Only Ever Be Sentences
At twenty-six songs clocking in at an hour and change, Teen Suicide’s second full length is certainly very big. Yet its pieces are bite sized. Dealers in garage rock, noise pop and lo-fi indie (and, well, every other cool alt-rock subgenre this side of Seattle) the Maryland trio only break three minutes for a handful of tracks. It’s the Big Joyous Celebration lives up the second clause of its verbose title as well – the album is a thick, viscous, swirling solution of everything from abstract noise rock to a distinctly Daniel Johnstonian style of modest balladry, complete with nasally wailed vocals and toy piano sounds.
Fake record skips and malfunctioning tape loops punctuate the record’s bigger chunks, spliced in like an indie rock version of fanfare. It’s a curious choice, perhaps made in an attempt to foster some weird credibility by creating a false sense of antiquity. Even stranger when contrasted with the lyrical fragments that pull all the lo-fi musings into the age of the millennial – Sam Ray tells us that he’s “got three Netflix accounts” somewhere in the midst of the phaser and chorus-soaked guitar strumming in pseudo-ballad “It’s Just A Pop Song.” But if you don’t catch the songs’ words for the echo effects on the vocals, you’d be forgiven for thinking Honeypot came out in 1993. The production and mixing shifts with new each style – Teen Suicide try on the skin of every worthwhile group that’s ever taken a crack at anything vaguely lo-fi for two and a half minutes at a time.
“Alex” outfits an amiable, simple tune with Jesus and Mary Chain static to make it abrasive and grating. “Bright Blue Pickup Truck” follows the lead of Sufjan Stevens with a bit of banjo and some softly crooned vocal melodies, all with a hazy psychedelic touch. “Big Mistake” and “Neighborhood Drug Dealer” both capture the frailty of We Shall All Be Healed-era Mountain Goats and their plethora of sad predecessors. Teen Suicide even tap into Sonic Youth’s brand of noncommittal exuberance, landing just one notch below true heaviness with “God,” a track that shares a border with noise rock and a dinner table with Japandroids. Speaking of which, what happened to Japandroids? They were darlings! It seemed like they were all anyone was talking about in 2008. Where’d they go?
Even though the reverb-y vocals and atmospheric echoes get a little out of hand in spots (drowning out both beat and melody during micro-tracks like “What You Want”) It’s the Big Joyous Celebration delivers such a variety of sounds and ideas with such a limited palette of textures that the album is certainly worth its minor annoyances. Teen Suicide’s latest is like a festive cheese platter of alt rock. Or a beer flight if you prefer. An enjoyable sampler.
Is anyone else really hungry?