Teenanger - Good Time (Telephone Explosion Records)

Teenanger – Good Time (Telephone Explosion Records)

Teenanger, the mainstay on Toronto’s DIY circuit for over a decade, have grafted some of the best, fiercely ambitious post-punk tunes Canada has to offer.  Out this week, sixth album, Good Time goes all-in with elements of quirky pop, angular new wave and 80s drive-in horror movie soundtracks. Which is to say, that it’s a really fun record.

Getting to that point hasn’t been easy for Teenanger however and it’s important to share some backstory before we delve further.

The band hit a significant wall, falling rapidly from the highs of a successful tour promoting their last, self-titled album in 2017.  Instead of capitalising on that success, they found themselves washed up, uninspired and suffering from a savage case of writer’s block. Self-searching questions followed, in an attempt to discover the source of the malaise. Perhaps it was the band’s line-up – which had unusually remained the same from inception – should they add members? Maybe it was even time to call it a day? In the end, a Craigslist ad provided the answer. Incorrectly listed as a basement apartment, a new rehearsal space (later to be affectionately called ‘Studio Z’) gave Teenanger exactly the fresh perspective they needed. A long-abandoned basement Reggae studio and after-hours club, it emanated some vestiges of its earlier use but was mostly a haven for spiders and rats. Fully installed and renovated, Studio Z went on to present more than its share of creative challenges, or what Eno might call Oblique Strategies. During the writing and recording of Good Time, the band faced vermin, two floods, a deadly CO2 leak, constant mould problems, then, two weeks before the record was finished, the building’s water supply was cut off for good.

That there’s a cutting sarcasm and sardonic humour running through this album is an understatement.  Studio Z became Teenanger’s fifth member and Good Times is all the better for this elusive, mischievous muse. Feverish self-doubt and listlessness course through opener ‘Beige’. As Melissa Ball coos reassuringly “it’s the safest shade / everything is beige”, there’s a distinctly 90s Factory records vibe, (or maybe something more like Imperial Teen, or Bridget Cross’ post-Unrest project, Air Miami) which lingers nicely in most of the album.  The playful vocal ‘boop boops’ that punctuate ‘Trillium Song’ are a coy flourish, cutting through its otherwise staple no-wave, post-punk geometry. While that might all sound a bit sappy, as with many of the songs it’s the lyrics that do the heavy lifting, here blasting criticism at politician Doug Ford (Premier of Ontario) for his broken promises. Next, ‘Pleassure’ strikes sickly karate blows at societal conformity, a theme continued on the even catchier ‘Romance for Rent’, sounding like a long-lost TeenBeat recording.

Elsewhere, Good Time makes good use of the weird and wonderful to make its point. Like the saucy 56K dial-up modem sampling on ‘Straight To Computer’, the pithy reso-reso, congas and buzzsaw synth that combine into a kind of beastly puppet on ‘Touching Glass’, a song lyrically-inspired by John Carpenter‘s They Live which pitches a fear of mind-control through our phones. The title track hints at the frustrations of the two-year journey to create the album, channeling the band’s post-punk chops through an array of warbling synth textures and robust bass lines and forced smiles all round: “We are all having a good time / we are all getting along”Good Time aptly ends on ‘The Drain’, a motorik-infused driving song that circles in on itself, unresolved and washed away. It leaves us feeling a little bit muddled and uncertain.

When power was eventually restored to Studio Z, Teenanger returned one last time. With final tweaks made, the files were sent for mixing and they disassembled the studio and closed the door. Making Good Time was, perhaps, partly a trial by ordeal, but it sounds like a victorious return. As the Joker said in Dark Knight, “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger.”






‘Good Time’ is released on October 2nd, via Telephone Explosion Records.


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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.