Review Summary: Pup ponk for every girl and boy.Predatory Headlights
, the latest from Wisconsin-based punk trio Tenement, is more rewarding than meets the eye. Often described as channeling Ergs-y pop punk through a fuzzy, '90s indie rock lens, Tenement now present a sprawling double album true to form, yet with surprising experimental elements. It’s like a series of second thoughts, with seemingly irrelevant moments deserving reexamination as the songs fold over. Eerie, piano-driven opener “Theme of the Cuckoo” is quickly shrugged off by “Crop Circle Nation” with chunky guitars and frontman Amos Pitsch’s declaration: “we belong somewhere else/belong somewhere else/belong somewhere else.
” This line, negligible at the time, is important. It binds Predatory Headlights
, despite the sonic diversity and skewed progression, and doesn’t see fruition until the end credits roll.
The first third of Predatory Headlights
is fast-paced, presenting fun, rowdy flashbacks laced with countless highlights (the thick, crunchy guitar in “The Shriveled Finger” jumps to mind). Amos’ mature-ish lyrical approach is relatable, sure to connect with those who faded into adulthood embracing the snotty preachings of Milo Aukerman alongside the earnestness of Paul Westerberg. Early standout “Dull Joy” juxtaposes carefree vocal hooks with sarcastic, disappointed lyrics: “now is the time/to find your place in line/dull joy/for every girl and boy.
” From then on, to equally infectious “Under the Storm Clouds”, there is no respite, making Predatory Headlights
fairly front-loaded in terms of sheer power. “Ants + Flies” comes not a moment too soon, and is pivotal. Piano hangs in the air amidst chimes and nature sounds, sobering and poignant, long after Pitsch’s damning words. The aura is spontaneous, with a hold-on-guys-I-just-gotta-do-this
quality. Some things take precedence.
There’s something to be said for Tenement’s wandering nature, namely the vast soul-searching blended in with punk, jangle pop-inspired guitars, power pop, and grimy, string-fueled boogie rhythms. Nine-and-a-half minute “A Frightening Place for Normal People” comes out of left field, featuring hypnotic wind chimes in the midst of the haunting shuffle of an upright bass. Though chilling at times, the track is unconventionally playful, and an interesting subplot leading into the self-reflective “Licking a Wound”. Predatory Headlights
steps off of the beaten path occasionally, more so in the latter half, testing the waters and affirming oneself despite the trials and tribulations of love and loss. (One line of “Cold the Pavement Is” still resonates: “I will never let myself hurt/like you hurt.
”) Bringing everything full circle is the uneasy, appropriately-titled closer, “Afraid of the Unknown”. As Amos sings, “do you need/me around/me around anymore,
” he supplants the aforementioned lyrics from “Crop Circle Nation” (“we belong somewhere else
”). As he repeatedly asks whether or not he is indeed needed, there is a sense of feigned indifference. He isn’t really ready to leave.
In a way, Predatory Headlights
feels like an era-defining anthem, despite being hot off the press. As it progresses clumsily, it reflects a growing process, segueing from apprehension to youthful pissed-offness, to requited love, to the realization of still knowing so little despite the journey. Plus it fucking rocks, so, there’s that.