The Teenagers Reality Check

[Beggars Group/XL; 2008]

Styles: filthy electro-pop upstarts
Others: Mellow, The Strokes, Phoenix, Gainsbourg & Birkin, Travolta & Newton-John










Welcome to the wacktastic world of The Teenagers, where everything is exactly as it seems. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying this album on for size. The Teenagers -- actually a trio of twenty-something Frenchmen -- have been piggybacking on the buzz generated by Reality Check's opening song, “Homecoming,” which, simply put, is a “Summer Nights” for the Facebook generation. With a foul-mouthed Gallic gobshite subbing in for Danny's Italian stallion bravado and a clueless, SUV-driving cheerleader taking on Sandy's sweetness and light role, the song struts along with the ease and accessibility of a dancefloor-friendly Strokes. Even the most uptight prude will blush and giggle at the fourth-grade filth of “Homecoming”'s call-and-response chorus (“I fucked my American cunt/ I loved my English romance/ It was dirty a dream came true, just like I like it, she's got nice tits/ It was perfect, a dream came true, just like a song by Blink 182”) and will laugh out loud at the song’s final female send-off: “And don’t forget to send me a friend request!” “Homecoming” is a hot novelty, a perfect album kickoff, and great introduction to surely one of the most infuriatingly spotlight-seeking bands to appear in quite some time.

Needless to say, following up the overwhelming “Homecoming” is a Herculean task, one the band nobly takes on but ultimately fails to conquer. However, there are a few eyebrow-raising pluses. “Love No” is a song-long nag narrated in the voice of a male victim that lists his partner's qualms with his own behaviors: his meetings with friends and ex-girlfriend, his excessive smoking, his obsessive re-watching of Showgirls, and his bathroom that “is worse than disgusting.” The Rentals-like paean to a certain Hollywood actress (“Starlett Johansson”) and the Pet Shop Boys-lite kiss-off to a MySpace trendy (“F**k Nicole”) both entertain with their unsubtle simplicity. Meanwhile, the self-gloss of “Feeling Better” sums up both The Teenagers and teenagers in general, who first reach out like phonies (“Who's there for you when you're cold and alone...Teenagers, Teenagers”) then turn selfish with their next breath “We don't care, just buy our t-shirts and talk about us everywhere"). All of the above contain killer choruses (although are not altogether different sounding from each other) and are catchy anthems for lusty lip-locked teens and twenty- and thirty-something teen wannabes who steadfastly refuse to give up their adolescence.

Unfortunately, there are too many dull digressions on Reality Check to wholeheartedly recommend the album. It gets exceedingly tiresome when taken as a whole. The fact that the band were an internet phenomenon before they were actually a band does not bother me; the fact that they get lazy on much of the album does. There are also too many over-the-top moments that will prompt repeated cries of “what the hell is this?” For every well-executed verse and chorus there is a ridiculously silly or downright dumb lyric (the nonsensical plain/pop-culture grab bag couplet of “What if we were still together, would I be happier/ And if Shannen Doherty stayed in 90210, maybe she would have never met Alyssa Milano” in “Wheel of Fortune” springs quickly to mind). Things never turn sour, but the self-centered songwriting gets trying over the span of Reality Check. There's also a serious lack of innovative musical ideas present. Despite the obvious catchiness found throughout, the band proves itself to be more of a one-trick pony than a fresh surpriser.

But, of course, that's the point of Reality Check. This is the snidely side of pop, where cute is not what is aimed for, does not win any extra style points, and where any suggestion to strive for “timeless” status would be met with a snicker and a comeback. The Teenagers have not made a great album, but it is better than many will want to admit. They succeed by aggravating more than attracting, much like a bratty kid who repeats everything you say. While this technique and their cocksure attitude may rub a lot of people the wrong way, the results cannot be ignored. I do not give a flying you-know-what if Reality Check is the most calculated, pretentious pile of lowest-common denominator trash around; it also contains one of the most infectious slices of snot I have heard in ages. There are worse crimes than being transparent, disposable, and very much of the “now,” and sometimes the wise thing when encountered with something that goes against your grain is to just take it, consume it, enjoy it for what it is, and then file it away as something to remember every now and then when you need a smile. Will The Teenagers make it to next month or next year? Who knows. And who cares. When all is said and done, The Teenagers' greatest feat may be heavy rotation on American Apparel's in-store mixes for a month or two. I do not recall much about a handjob I got back in high school nor do I have any significant feelings toward the provider, but I can tell you it was damn fun at the time. And parts of Reality Check are damn fun too, if you are up for it.

1. Homecoming
2. Love No
3. Feeling Better
4. Starlett Johansson
5. Street of Paris
6. Make it Happen
7. Wheel of Fortune
8. F**k Nicole
9. French Kiss
10. Sunset Beach
11. III
12. End of the Road

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