I recently came across Teenage Kicks through some brilliant marketing they did on Record Store Day, giving away a free 7 inch vinyl single at Criminal Records and Sonic Boom. I grabbed it, being familiar with the Undertones song of the same name, so I thought it might be worth checking out. Also, it was free. I love free stuff, especially when it’s awesome stuff like vinyl.
They took their marketing game even further by releasing their debut EP Rational Anthems through Pay with a Tweet, soon after the free vinyl giveaway. Get peoples interest with something tangible reaching the audience that naturally would like this style of music (vinyl nerds) and then give them a whole EP for free, in exchange for more promotion than they would ever receive if they had released it the normal way. By the time they release a full length they will have a loyal audience built up who will be more than willing to pay for it. This is what every new band should be doing. Either Teenage Kicks have their shit together and did their research, or there is someone who truly understands the new digital music industry behind them.
So before I had even heard a single note of their music I was relatively impressed with these guys, but good marketing doesn’t always equal good music. That said, I was instantly sold as soon as the vocals hit for the opening track “Brooklyn Bridge”. Pete van Helvoort has the kind of voice rock music has been in desperate need of. It is raspy and sexy and I want to listen to him sing all day, every day.
I think their bio write up says it best:
It’s not a backdrop for drunken twenty-somethings awkwardly lusting after each other in dark clubs, but a soundtrack for young hearts finding true love and sharing moments that will stay with them forever. In a nutshell, it’s rock n’ roll.
Nauseatingly cute, but completely true.
They are still young enough to wear their influences on their sleeve, but the variety of their influences makes for something entirely unique. The opening track sounds a lot like Springsteen, while the closing track, “The River” sounds like a Soundgarden meets Metallica hybrid (therefore it’s the only track I’m not crazy about) but the middle three songs are where you hear the true Teenage Kicks sound. “Hearts of Darkness” is the strongest of the five, and with their exclusive release of the video through AUX this week, it is sure to become the anthem they created it to be. “All my friends are fucking ghosts, floating off from coast to coast.. turned 18 and lost my head, all my friends are gone and dead.”
I think it’s safe to say they were going for a concept EP here, referencing Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness (one of the most horrific novels in existence that you may have had to read in high school) with all the references to death, losing your head, European brutality, destruction, and the river – in the same way that Neutral Milk Hotel did with in the incredible album In an Aeroplane Over The Sea. Even if you have no idea what the novel Heart of Darkness is about (“the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans’ cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being”) you will still love Rational Anthems.
The literal darkness of the lyrics goes beyond their source material, and easily connects to the life experiences of those of us who are now facing the “darkness within every human being” as we form our adult lives shaped by a less overt evil than European Colonialism, but an overwhelmingly negative force no less (Ford, Harper and so many more). All my friends are not fucking ghosts because the British cut their heads off, but because they graduated into a recession without a leg to stand on, under the rule of people whose self interest is almost as grotesque as the colonialists.
This is an EP that marks the beginning of a band that will have a great career, and each track only gets better with every listen. The upbeat melodies balance the brutal imagery of the lyrics, so it never sounds as dark as this review may make it out to be. In fact I would say it isn’t dark at all, but as the title suggests, a ‘rational anthem’ (haha!) for surviving and pushing against what we have so unfortunately inherited.
I highly suggest you download Rational Anthems right now. It is up for free on their bandcamp, but you should still tweet/share it everywhere you can if you like it, and you will like it.
Catch them live during NXNE, June 18th 9pm at the Horseshoe.