Reality Check // Merok/XL
The whiff of suspicion that greets The Teenagers’ debut began with ‘Homecoming’. Released as a single last May, ‘Reality Check’’s opener crept up out of the gutter from nowhere, sleazing around like an X-rated ‘Summer Nights’. Infused with the spirit of Serge Gainsbourg, the Gitanes-stained soundscape was seemingly dreamt up by a pervert in a beret and dirty mac, leafing through a grubby copy of Lolita. Released on Merok (early home of Klaxons and Crystal Castles) and shrouded in mystery, it bounced in like the best hipster joke since ‘LDN Is A Victim’.
Some knowing fashion magazine photospreads later, and it seemed like
The Teenagers wouldn’t be hanging around for long. Those who scoffed, though, missed the point. ‘Homecoming’’s gauche stream of teen consciousness was exactly what made it so brilliant. Pin-sharp in its description of the battle of the sexes, the kitchen sink ‘dramedy’ shocked, not because of its Pepé Le-Pew crudeness, but because of its bollock-bearing honesty. It’s a clever trick they repeat throughout their debut.‘Homecoming’ sets the tone for an album that wears its heart on its pizza-stained sleeve. Theirs is a world uncomplicated by adult concerns – the 12 tracks here shift from house party to one-night stand to stop-start relationships which bear the hangover and rug burn along the way. Juvenilia filled with joie de vivre, then…a vibe that infests the music. ‘Reality Check’ is a seething mass of synths, bottle-
neck harmonies and off-kilter guitars that chime with a lo-fi sizzle. However, gripping as it is, the music actually plays second fiddle to their hormone-filled lyrics and vocalist Quentin Delafon’s singing/speaking style. Two parts Gallic Lou Reed one part Eddie Argos, he intones each tune with a mix of bathos and heart.
‘Starlett Johansson’ sees him as the webmaster of an ‘I Heart Scarlett’ website, reciting faintly comical lines about his jealousy over the actress’ crushes on Jared Leto and Josh Hartnett. On ‘Love No’ Quentin adopts the character of a long-suffering girlfriend for whom familiarity has bred grizzly contempt. A laundry list of complaints spill out (“Are you really going to eat that pepperoni pizza? It looks so greasy… For God’s sake, stop smoking. All. The. Time”) before he switches to the role of the harangued boyfriend (“This morning I woke up and I saw your angry face and now I’m just wondering, are you in love?”), all the while picking at the subtleties that make or break a relationship. It’s another effortless evocation of the thorny issue of boy-girl relations, which calls to mind another indie masterclass in his’n’hers dissection – ‘Girl Afraid’ by The Smiths. ‘Fuck Nicole’, meanwhile, takes us into the weird world of a teenage hanger-on who survives on a diet “alcopops and Ketamine” for tea, while the nameless one-night stand in ‘Sunset Beach’ works in Gap and has “no fucking Jeff Buckley” on her iPod.
These giddy character snapshots are held together by the band’s gloopy pop culture obsessions. Inhabiting the same stuffed-to-the-brim blogosphere as CSS and Lightspeed Champion, Quentin, Michael and Dorian’s constantly stimulated vision-o-scope is filled with watching Showgirls on repeat, using Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ as their pre-prepared “loving making” soundtrack and getting misty-eyed over Dirty Dancing.
These lyrical Polaroids and the band’s sense of humour push the lyrics into places they would never otherwise have reached. Nearly every song has a moment of lyrical hilarity – best of the bunch is ‘Wheel Of Fortune’’s philosophical whimsy (“If Shannen Doherty stayed in 90210/Maybe she would have never met Alyssa Milan-o”).While we’re not sure how long The Teenagers can play the roles of STD-prone lover/sulky bastard/stalky webmaster, for now ‘Reality Check’ stands as a fun, frank and startlingly perceptive debut that surprises for all the right reasons.