SLAM WEEK: Teenager – Thirteen

Embarrassingly, I missed the entire Teenager boat completely. I had never heard of the group, album, or any of their songs until this week. I don’t know what happened there, but for this very special celebration of SLAM Week I decided to get my hands on their 2006 release, Thirteen, to see if I had missed out.

I was pleased to discover many interesting facts about Teenager as a group: the leader of the pack and vocalist is none other than Aussie favourite electro-pop outfits (both equally loved!) Pnau AND Empire of the Sun’s Nick Littlemore, but the juiciness does not cease here! Completing the party is Miss Pip Brown of New Zealand decent. For those who do not recognise her given name, she is part of Two Lane Blacktop and (much more recently and famously) the lead singer of none other than Ladyhawke.

If Teenager’s status as an interesting and unusual collaborative force alone fails to provide some intrigue and interest to your musical education, then Thirteen picks up from where Teenager left off on the cool front. The 13-track release may have taken a while in the making, but disappointment was avoided.

The album in its entirety provides an amalgamation of unusually crafted electronic rock pieces that feature equally differing vocal styles, guest collaborators and 80s synth riffs.

Thirteen may be classified as pop, but is far from easy listening and takes a few spins to get the feel for. However, repeated listens do not lead to disappointment and what at first appears as a mess of noise and effects in fact leads to a very interesting and artistic release.

Song lengths vary greatly among the thirteen tracks; some falling just under a very short two minutes, while others reach an epic 15-plus minutes. This sense of randomness is emphasised by staccato, chant-like lyrics shaking up melodic singing by Littlemore.

The album opener, “Liquid Cement” is a stand-out track, and features none other than the very cool Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth fame. Urgency is delivered through driving guitar riffs, whilst echo effects on vocals cast an eerie, dream-like spell across the entire track. “Liquid Cement” overall provides a great start to the record.

Probably the most commercial (and I use that term lightly) track on Thirteen is “Pony”. Reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s lyrical style and electro-rock melodies, this up-beat track features great hooks including “Pony, pony, ass bitch  what you what you want as you drop your knickers to the floor,” and “She look like Bruce Lee!” which makes it the perfect road trip song. Further confirming the driving feeling inspired by the track is its feature on Grand Theft Auto IV’s soundtrack.

The album doesn’t quite reach perfection – one flaw being the lack of vocal feature from Brown (however it must be noted that Ladyhawke was born AFTER Teenager and this album were created) – however its musical combinations and collaborations must be highly regarded. Further works could have improved on what was a solid start for Teenager.
by Jemima Lewis

February 29th 2012
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