Teenage Moods – Mood Ring (25 Diamonds)
By Wallace Wylie
My days of actually going to gigs are on the wane, or so I would appear. I always preferred albums as the ultimate music experience. With an album, I could retreat to my room and soak it in rather than have some silly bastard jump on my toe repeatedly, or perhaps have some impossibly tall galoot stand right in front of me. As a result, I have lost touch with the Minneapolis music scene, though that’s assuming I was ever really in touch with it. Hip-hop is thriving, with Atmosphere and Doomtree the biggest names in town. In terms of the rest, my limited gaze sees only alt. country bands by the dozen travelling in opposite circles from the indie/synth/electronica acts that occasionally grace the pages of Pitchfork. It’s easy to miss the fact that there’s a thriving DIY/punk scene going on, with bands playing in the basements of punk-rock houses on a regular basis. Everybody in the scene knows where to find these basements but, with any luck, the police don’t. From this ragged scene comes Teenage Moods.
The lead singer/guitarist is Gordon. He looks like Stephen Pastel’s long-lost younger brother. I know Gordon from our days of working together at a local record store and the last time I bumped into him I asked for a copy of his new album with an eye to reviewing it. My blood ran cold for a second as I thought of the prospect of giving it a bad review. Could I look Gordon in the eye again? To make matters worse, I also know Jillian the bass player. We’re practically neighbours! Feeling like this was something that all music writers must face when dealing with the local scene, I prepared for the task at hand.
So how is Mood Ring, the newest album by Teenage Moods? It’s bloody good. I would call it pop-punk, but then you’ll think of Green Day or some shit like that. Start thinking something more along the lines of the bouncy songs Gerard Love used to write for Teenage Fanclub, stuff like ‘Long Hair’ or ‘Radio’. I have no idea whether anyone in the group listens to Teenage Fanclub, despite their name, but that’s what I get. I’d call it garage rock but then you might think of The Black Lips or some other musical atrocity. No, no, a thousand times no. This isn’t a bunch of trucker-hat wearing dudes trying to conjure up the festering spirit of rock and roll. Teenage Moods are too sprightly for that. I’d call it fun, but nowadays fun means a big dumb popcorn movie that makes your brain stop functioning (and charges you big money for the pleasure). Think Girls At Our Best! except with a guy singing, and with less production. Maybe think ‘About A Boy’ by Nirvana [what, the Hugh Grant film? – interested Ed], only sped up. On second thought, don’t think anything like that. No, Teenage Moods aren’t breaking any new ground, but they’re also not bowing down to the past in any recognisable way, and they aren’t playing “spot the reference”. They’re blasting out super-catchy guitar pop that’s all over before you can even think about getting bored.
Opening number ‘Tulip Tattoo’ sets the tone and, in many ways, makes for a hard act to follow. Except that second track ‘Heavy Bunny’ is more than up to the task. For those without a sweet tooth, the sugar rush may initially be off-putting, but there’s enough grit and fuzz to make the whole thing seem filling as well as flavourful. Each song seems cut from a similar cloth but, man, that’s a nice cloth. At just nine songs, the album doesn’t hang around too long, leaving you no choice but to play it all over again. It makes me feel like dusting off the old guitar and knocking out some pop songs for the hell of it, because Teenage Moods make it sound like a blast. ‘Yellow War’, ‘Mood Ring’, ‘Our Little Dirt’, everything feels right, everything feels poppy. Not only do I feel elated, I have to admit I feel a bit relieved. It seems I’ve survived unscathed from reviewing a Minneapolis band. Surely they can’t all be this good? If so, I really need to get out more.
(Mood Rings was released on vinyl by the label 25 Diamonds, but you can also listen to the entire album then buy it for a mere $3 right here.)