Review Summary: Grunge rock in 2018 has never sounded this good.
Rad Horror is a band with roots dug deep in the 90s. In an interview with LA Weekly
, frontman Dylan Jackson Scott fondly recalled the decade in which he grew up, absorbing as much of the culture as possible before becoming a teenager at the turn of the millennium. He name-checked everything from Smashing Pumpkins to I Know What You Did Last Summer
, the latter of which serves as something of a namesake for the group: “I always felt these movies were super super-rad.” That’s right, he named his band after a bunch of teen slasher films. If that alone was your only impression of Scott, you might think twice about bothering with this band. But what if you were to also learn that it sounds like the most vibrant, under-the-lights version of Nevermind
meets Science Fiction
？ Would you change your tune, ever so slightly？
Anti Teenage Sensation, Pt. 1
is a massive debut for these alt-rockers, who’ve barely even scratched the surface of creating music with six total songs to their name (this four-track release, and two additional singles). The EP is spearheaded by ‘Teenage Love’, an aching, star-lit ode to a disintegrated relationship: “I don't get high much anymore / You only call me lonely, looking to score…I would tell you to go to hell, but I'm too god damn proud.” Scott spends a good deal of the extended play offering reflective lyrics; ones that feel poignantly depressing but offer a sliver of hope. This is very much a front-and-center guitar album, though, as they drive the music while ringing out resplendently between Scott’s emotional, dramatic pauses. The drums are a bit more calculated, cementing Anti Teenage Sensation
in a state of equilibrium – floating between buoyant atmospheres and an earthy sense of realism.
They’re the most raucous on ‘Stay Out’, the second song here and the closest they’ve come to an all-out rocker, save for perhaps the separate, Nirvana-reminiscent single ‘Gay.’ The guitars are ramped up even more, and Dylan’s vocals fringe on all-out screams when he passionately shouts “I wanna feel a little sunshine, but I never get out” during the bridge sections. They’re not reinventing the wheel, or even doing anything all that remarkable from an instrumental standpoint, but the pure energy they play with tidies up any loose, scattered ends. That seems to be the case across the board with Rad Horror, a band that has absorbed an entire array of influences, and now simply wants to put their own spin on things and rock out.
The highlight of the EP comes on ‘Dark Times’, which feels like Rad Horror’s early claim to fame. The chorus, “I’m hanging on the outside of my mind, looking for the bright side of dark times”, is anthemic and swelling, capable of packing arenas. Scott channels Brand New levels of glorious, quiet-to-loud eruptions, all the while making the same sort of analogies that band tended to during the peak of their songwriting: “There's smoke in the garden, she seems so peculiar now to me / But I’m like a sergeant, searching for soldiers overseas.” The whole thing glows with late 90’s/early 2000’s nostalgia, and it’s the kind of headliner song that could catapult Rad Horror to stardom sooner rather than later.
Closing track ‘Only When You’re Lonely’ brings the group’s softer side to the surface again, mirroring the reflective tone of ‘Teenage Love’ with a mid-tempo, bittersweet chorus, “Let somebody else take your feet off the ground…The voice in my head sings me to bed every night.” The song rocks itself gently to-and-fro until the chorus arrives, where the guitars again come crashing in – dazzling and magnificent – without overshadowing Scott’s thoughtful ruminations. The most sobering moment may be when he delivers the line, “When you're all out of cash and all out of love / You're all out of beer / You're stoned and you're fucked…and scared to be alone.” By the end of the song, little utterances of ba ba la dee da
subtly raise the spirits, and it becomes all too easy to feel like you’re caught in some sort of pop-infused updraft. ‘Only When You’re Lonely’ is the ending that this EP deserves – it’s gorgeous, affecting, and flies by the seat of its pants.
Anti Teenage Sensation, Pt. 1
sounds like the start of something huge. Every time that a new, young band comes out and plays actual guitars instead of leaning entirely on synths and electronic effects, critics tend to crown them as the saviors of rock almost as an involuntary reflex. It’s funny, then, that a band with no intention of becoming the next anything
may actually be the ones to fucking do it. While their influences are recognizable, Rad Horror don’t wear them on their sleeves. They’re out to make music that’s charged
, no matter what form that may arrive in. On their debut EP, they’re sounding emotionally charged, highly energetic, and nostalgic all at the same time. Wherever they go from here matters little, because talent this obvious has a way of shining through.