Review Summary: Love at first sight
Out of all the cliché love-related one-liners, ‘opposites attract’ seems to be the most relevant and recurring one to me. Interestingly enough, I realised that this phrase can also be applied to other aspects of my life, including music. Many of my favourite artists are capable of taking two seemingly contradictory genres or sounds and combining them into unique, beautiful music. The debut album Chrome Neon Jesus
by L.A. band Teenage Wrist is a subtly brilliant example of how opposites can make for some of the best music in recent history.
The opener and title track ‘Chrome Neon Jesus’ is a perfect example of Teenage Wrist’s ability to merge dreamy indie and hard-hitting alternative rock into a truly mesmerising track. After a distant, quiet intro the song kicks into full gear with a surprisingly catchy chorus and intense yet oddly laid-back instrumentals. Especially the bridge of fuzzy guitars and drowned out spoken word changing into a fiery verse displays the band’s unique sense and use of dynamics. Throughout the album, the smart use of distortion plays a big part in Chrome Neon Jesus
’ success. By not relying too heavily on the technique and applying it where appropriate, the band strikes a perfect balance between ‘intense’ and ‘pleasant’, especially apparent on the aforementioned title track.
However, while the first song might be the most immediate example of the band’s spectrum and abilities, the album fully explores all corners of Teenage Wrist’s sound. Ranging from noise rock to quiet shoegaze tracks, the record encompasses a wide array of sounds while remaining largely consistent. For example, ‘Spit’ showcases the band’s softest side with a stretched out song which at times borders on ambient. Kamtin Mohager’s soothing vocals lie comfortably on top of airy guitars while the drumming prevents the song from being too one-dimensional. Quite notably, the drums tend to feel like the driving force behind many of the songs on Chrome Neon Jesus
. This becomes especially apparent on the noise rock-infused ‘Black Flamingo’, as the intricate drumming is by far the most impressive part of the track. The instrumental bridge makes the chemistry between the band members tangible as all instruments play nicely off each other with the drums taking the limelight.
Lyrically, Chrome Neon Jesus
is no masterpiece. The album largely seems to rely on ‘afterthought lyrics’; making simplistic and somewhat vague lyrics fit with melodies. However, Teenage Wrist pulls this off surprisingly well, with the main reason being the fact that the melodies are simply too pleasant and beautiful to mind the simplicity of the words sung. The chorus of ‘Dweeb’ solely consists of ‘I do / I do / I do / I do / I do / I do’
yet works as a driving counterpart to the subdued verses before exploding into a colourful outro. Besides this, the lyrical themes often rely on vaguely romantic statements fitting perfectly with the melancholic nature of the music itself. Interestingly enough, Teenage Wrist also seem to focus on contradicting the romance with seemingly critical lines. ‘Supermachine’ appears to criticise society as a whole, stating it follows the system/supermachine blindly. However, these themes are both hindered and strengthened by the vagueness of the lyrics. While it is rather unclear what is exactly meant, this also means it allows for further investigation and personal analysis of the lyrical content.
Sadly, the album is somewhat hindered by its overly glossy and sometimes rather unbalanced production. This tends to result in quiet parts being overly quiet and vice versa. While this arguably emphasises the brilliant dynamics, it makes for an occasionally jarring listen. Besides this, the experimental and largely instrumental track Kibo is rather unnecessary and does not add anything new to the album. On the other hand, the song is also a reminder of how unique and brilliant all the other songs and the album as a whole are. While every track offers new, fresh ideas, the record remains consistent due to its instantly recognisable sound and recurring albeit vague lyrical themes.
However, the flawed production does not hinder the album from being a phenomenal piece of work. The excellent dynamics and subtle uniqueness of the record make Teenage Wrist’s debut a fantastic listen. While it is possible to listen tot the album casually, diving into the opposites presented gives it a whole new dimension. Love at first sight, opposites attract, whatever. Chrome Neon Jesus
is worth your time.