The self-titled debut from Teen Men, out now on Bar/None Records, is a breezy, brisky jaunt through the worlds of pop and new wave. That the album does so much, so quickly is a testament to the economy of the songwriting of this foursome.
"Adventure Kids" rides a hook like something out of an old King Sunny Ade song and ingratiates itself with a listener almost instantly. The wheezy underpinnings only add an aura of mystery to what remains a bit of bright pop business.
If "The Sea, The Sea" is slightly sinister -- that dark O.M.D.-style keyboard -- then "It's All Rushing Back" takes something like the rhythm track from XTC's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" and expands on it in some clever ways -- that plucked guitar-line charms.
Nick Krill and Joe Hobson were in the criminally underrated The Spinto Band, while band-mates Albert Birney and Catharine Maloney come from the world of visual arts. That sounds like a combination designed to created something precious. And while the tunes on the Teen Men record are indeed gentle ramblings, these are still robust tunes. "Rene" recalls Prefab Sprout in some weird way, while "Township (Not Sure)" uses the falsetto vocals set against a jarring guitar sound to great effect. Equally melodic and experimental, the tune is, like most of the tracks on this record, the sort of thing that immediately gets my attention.
"Fall Out a Tree" channels both Brit indie stalwarts Ooberman and Yank supergroup The Postal Service to present a cut that serves as both art rock and pure pop. And in that offering is the secret of the success of Teen Men, both the band and the album. It takes a deftness of touch to pull off music like this. At once pretentious (in a good way) and immediately accessible, the songs on this record are catchy and gratifying in a fresh manner. I smiled when I heard this album for the first time. It's that sort of album. The perfect soundtrack to your summer-time adventures, grab Teen Men from Teen Men as soon as you can.
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