From the Basement: The Rock*A*Teens
From The Basement #35
The Rock*A*Teens/Sweet Bird of Youth
A mere four years ago Merge Records gently released an under-recognized classic, a record that leaves me like jelly, raw. A mere four years ago I was a recent college graduate, not utilizing my hard earned degree, slugging it out at the local mom+pop mega-conglomerate book/music store. Disenfranchised, poor, heart-broken and often drunk, my only solace was my books and records, to an almost fetishistic degree. There were many defining records from that period but not so many that had an impact all those years ago and then hid themselves away amongst the dusty stacks only to reappear some four years later at a time in my life as transitory (if not more so) as those lost and wandering days following college. And what is this album I have yet to mention? Sweet Bird of Youth by The Rock-A-Teens.
I first came across the Rock-A-Teens via one of the Merge anniversary comps. 10th anniversary maybe? Or was it the 5th (what ever happened to The Angels of Epistemology anyway?)? No, the 10th, definitely. The Rock-A-Teens are sorta lo-fi but not quite in that Sebadoh or Guided By Voices sort of way. Its all very analog, seething organ and crunchy guitars. And hooks, frighteningly addictive hooks. Yeah, I know, its sounds like I'm describing GBV and maybe there's something to that. Unadulterated, sweaty fucking bar rock (and I don't mean bar rock like the local Alice in Chains tribute band), awkward at times but never slowing to take notice. Yet, they really sound nothing like GBV. On this album there's an almost surprising bombast to the songs. You don't expect it but then it takes you, shoulder to shoulder, geeked out on the bliss, each song sounds like the last song they'll play before all the equipment shorts out. I'm repeatedly surprised that this band and this album haven't garnered at least a little more notoriety in the indie-rock pantheon. But what the fuck do I know?
There's an earnest desperation, a yearning that almost blankets the album. They plead "Please Don't Go Downtown Tonight", they bury their head in their hands and tell you "I Hope You Never See Me Like This", and they dance around defeat singing "Ma Look What the City Did To Me". "Betwixt or Between" thrusts. Actually, most of the album thrusts. It really is almost strangely sexual. That's the rock-n-roll way I guess. It's pure sweat from beginning to end, damp guitars, beaten and bruised, nothing subtle about it. The Rock-A-Teens have recorded a good beer drunk, a hearty hand job, a sweet and hot, summer-warm melody crooked and cracked. For what its worth, this record comes highly recommended by little ‘ole me. Although I may be biased with an emotional connection to this music that may very well elude others, I feel confident that this album can warm your cockles as it has repeatedly warmed mine. Drink up.
- Adam Richards | 2004-10-07
|OTHER ARTICLES BY ADAM RICHARDS|
|OTHER FROM THE BASEMENT ARTICLES|