Review Summary: “My parents never see me win.”
High school sucks. Whether it’s something you’re currently experiencing, on the cusp of experiencing, or have previously experienced, its agonizing nature is almost universally agreed upon. And yet, high school has nonetheless carved out an interesting space for itself within popular culture, its torturous idiosyncrasies spawning countless movies and TV shows that transcend generational. Born of this phenomenon, high school nostalgia has long been a driving force in the music industry, leaving its mark on genres from 90s alt-rock to mid-2000s emo. Relatable to teenage listeners and curiously nostalgic to older ones, these songs about a time we all wish we could forget have proved ubiquitous and highly successful; yet, despite their widespread nature, few albums have more fully succeeded in capturing the true spirit of high school than Teenage Movie Soundtrack.
Throughout the record, Heyrocco’s underlying lack of pretension emerges as their defining trait. Never once do they attempt to make some grand statement about adolescence; rather, they simply describe it in all of its painful glory. “Loser Denial,” equal parts charming and gut-wrenching, sets the stage for the record by relaying feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Though said topics are by no means novel or earth-shattering, these guys simply sell it.
A deliciously awkward sundae topped with strained and anxiety-riddled vocals, fuzzy Blue Album
power chords, and surprisingly personal and well-written lyrics, this is a record that succeeds thanks to an overwhelming abundance of passion and care. Rather than taking the standard "woe is me, life is hard” route of many of their contemporaries, Heyrocco’s lyrics are detailed and honest, immensely relatable in their portrayal of the adolescent mind. The double entendre-laden “Melt,” for example, takes the quintessential first love trope in a far more engaging direction. Laced with a sheen of awkwardness and self-doubt, it explores the ins and outs of a young mind; rather than simply stopping at “I love you,” the track gives deeper insight into the emotions and intricacies of what love entails.
A record can’t get by on lyrical themes alone, so Teenage Movie Soundtrack
's abundance of hooks proves important in ensuring its memorability. However, catchy as their music may be, Heyrocco never seem to be forcing pop elements into their songs or vying for a radio hit. Rather, the hooks flow organically, seldom clashing with the tone or topic of their respective tracks. “Loser Denial,” “Mom Jeans,” and “Happy” boast killer hooks, yet they’re all decidedly understated, ensuring the awkwardness of the lyricism never extends to the songwriting itself. The concise runtime breezes by with nary an out-of-place moment, almost addicting in its replayability.
If I had to pinpoint a single flaw, it’s simply that Teenage Movie Soundtrack
can occasionally be too
high school. “Virgin,” which unsurprisingly tackles the topic of being a virgin, doesn’t really do anything particularly memorable with its subject material. Instead, it projects little more than the impression of vague annoyance--“teenagers suck” is a perfectly reasonable assertion, but not an especially compelling one. With that being said, it's hard to find any substantial fuel for criticism with a record this damn earnest.
I suppose it’s not perfect, but it doesn’t strive to be; rather, Teenage Movie Soundtrack
is exactly what its title would suggest, an ode to adolescent growing pains and teenage uncertainty. And, by that standard, it couldn’t be more successful.