Review Summary: *Discman not included
If earth really were a black hole, Teenage Wrist taking any notice of this seems doubtful. The band are too persistently preoccupied with drowning themselves and anyone willing to listen in pure 90s nostalgia, and, admittedly, it’s pretty wonderful. Vocalist Kamtin Mohager may have quit and started yet another new project, but Teenage Wrist are powering on as a two-piece and have filled the Chain Gang shaped hole with even more grungy goodness. A little less Hum and a little more Morissette, the duo mostly manage to make up for their freshly inherent shortcomings by delivering a batch of solid, sentimental bangers.
Let’s get Earth Is A Black Hole
’s first major issue out of the way: guitarist Marshall Gallagher taking on lead vocal duties may not have been the best move. While he is perfectly able to carry a melody, his voice lacks personality and fails to add to the fuzzy atmospheres crafted by the instrumentals. This is painfully noticeable on the weaker tracks: ‘Silverspoon’, for example, falls flat on its face as it fails to produce a single memorable moment. Similarly, the title track delivers a pleasantly airy riff, but holds itself back with awkward ‘ah-ah’s introducing the chorus. Thankfully, such issues cannot be found in every corner of the record. Moreover, Teenage Wrist primarily use the opportunity to flex their muscles and showcase their improved songwriting game. As such, it’s a slightly conflicting listen as most of these songs are undeniably good. Yet, it isn’t hard to imagine how much better they could have been with a more suitable vocalist; a feeling that persists all throughout.
Teenage Wrist’s growth as songwriters is best exemplified on the songs that stick closest to the reverb-drenched goodness they are known for: ‘Yellowbelly’ is an excellent ballad that contrasts bright, bouncy guitars with lyrics of death and decay. Like most of Earth Is A Black Hole
, the song displays more clarity than the band’s previous work, while remaining firmly grounded in a hazy ambience. Similarly, ‘High Again’ incorporates a surprisingly effective drumbeat before erupting into a monumental chorus, continuing the tradition of Teenage Wrist’s best songs being about weed and solitude. While it may be nothing new or explicitly inventive, the emotion pouring from simple lines such as “Can we just lie in bed and watch the sun come out?
” is tangible, genuine and, subsequently, irresistible.
When the band are on top of their game, the songs feel effortless; the atmosphere appears to compose itself. As such, ‘Wasting Time’ manages to be a highlight against all odds of its pop punk nature. Naturally, the track remains drowned in sparkly, echoing riffs and bouncy drums, solidifying the burning question of what a young Jim Adkins would have created had he discovered a Big Muff Pi. Oddly enough, ‘Wear U Down’ attempts to go down a similar path, yet ends up stumbling over its awkward chorus repeating the song title ad nauseam. It’s the disappointing line Earth Is A Black Hole
treads: the good only merely outweighs the mediocre. Almost every excellent song is contrasted by one that ends up feeling rather empty and tired, reminding listeners of what could have been.
Thankfully, Teenage Wrist still provide more than enough reverb and nostalgia to get lost in, especially for those in need of a 90s fix. The absence of one of nugaze’s most unique voices is noticeable, but the band must be commended for managing to put forth a batch of quality songs. If anything, Earth Is A Black Hole
functions as proof that there is a future for the duo without having to leave their comfort zone of denim jackets and Tamagotchis. With some more time spent on ensuring that every song is up to the standard of ‘Yellowbelly’ and ‘High Again’ on future projects, the band are capable of crafting something truly special. Hell, if they’re lucky, someone might even say that “they would’ve been huge in the 90s!”.