There is no mistaking the undercurrent of nostalgia amongst millennials. Things were different in the formative teen years, or the 90s for everyone– you know you’re a 90s kid when all your friends are married and have children. So for bands made up of millennials the songs about love affairs are with the times rather than with people. Being an adventurous teen goes back farther than that, to a time when Playboy was designing gentlemen and girls were finally able to be anything they wanted to be. It’s only now, in the summer of 2015, that two bands are daring to explore what it means to be Teen Men and Teen Girls.
The Teen Men show is inspiring. Musicians Nick Krill and Joe Hobson (formerly of The Spinto Band) have teamed with two visual artists Catherine Maloney and Albert Birney to mash together a public access dreamscape. Nick and Joe trade instructions on stage, moving from their guitar and keyboard to over the shoulder presses and lunges. Their faces are stoic, their bodies are ready, and the screen behind blares images of the 1950s. A time when fathers were always working and mothers were trapped inside the feminine mystique so our sense of adventure and discovery was molded inside coming of age boys. The show concludes with a robotic maturation as the computer digitally suggest: “Are you a Teen Man?”
Their foils Teen Girl Scientist Monthly are something more energetic. Coming from a background of power punk with Violent Femme choruses and a effortless ability to mix multiple vocals in harmony, Teen Girl Scientist Monthly released the underrated Modern Dances in 2013. It was the culmination of years of musical discovery, a hodgepodge of punk and pop sensibilities that succeeded in doing what it promised, making up modern ways to dance. Live shows aren’t as technical but the band makes up for it with raucous energy. With the name of the band coming from a mysterious circular that is unable to be found on the internet, the band plays with that energy required for Girls to aspire to be something other than the traditional.
This summer Teen Men released their debut album. Two weeks later Teen Girl Scientist Monthly released their second album. Where the live show captures a fast changing projection of images, the self titled Teen Men LP is on the beach wistful. The lead song “Hiding Records” is an ode to how music can make your heart beat a little faster, the rebellious moment of discovering something that not only thrills and shivers but offends your parents. The albums strength comes in the extremely detached vocals, in the vain of more dad friendly bands like The National, but what separates Teen Men is that their detachment seems tied to New York Times think pieces about how self involved and detached millennials are. Teen Men are resigned nostalgia, a lustful yearning for a time free of responsibilities but with the ability to articulate that yearning with the experience of lived life. The instrumentals on the album, like the upbeat “Adventure Kids” which carefully discusses reigniting passions and jump starting hearts, are chill pop tunes coupled with vibrant colors and random images in each of their videos. Teen Men are about as uncomfortable as a gorilla would be trying to pass in human culture.
Teen Girl Scientist Monthly discovered a keytar between the last album and Hyper Trophy and all of a sudden their music sounds complete. Lead single “Dark Rip” is a playful carousel of sound that moves the listener through what is probably a one sided love affair. Matt Berger sings at one level, a strong drawn out pleading that drives the music to louder and faster places. The music is another reaction to those same think pieces. The music video is less polished than “Hiding Records” and more real. The room that it’s being filmed in looks like a college dorm, or just a small New York City apartment, there are random adornments on the wall and little multicolored pennants strung behind. But the emotion is every bit as true, here is the Teen Girl making in New York City as a punk band goddess.
This summer it’s important to be a Teen.
Photo Credit: Emily Cheng