From the very first chords that almost reluctantly emerge from Thurston Moore’s guitar, “Teen Age Riot” has me hook, line and sinker. Kim Gordon’s sultry opening vocals lure you into the song’s grasp like a moth to the flame. Yet the song’s hesitant and brooding intro gradually gives way to a youthful energy that will not be denied. “You better look it/ We’re gonna shake it up to him / He acts the hero / We paint a zero on his hand.” We’ve all gone through that phase in our life when we’ve decided “I’m gonna do what I want, wear what I want, listen to what I want, go where I want and I don’t give a fuck what you think about it.” It’s called being a teenager. That ‘Fuck You’ free spirit is what this track is all about. We’re gonna play our tunes as hard as we can and we don’t care if you want it or like it. The older we get the harder it becomes to hold on to this feeling. Other things tend to get in the way and cloud our vision- jobs, careers, mortgages, families, the overbearing expectation that we need to settle down and become respectable members of society. These are important things to be sure but if it comes at the cost of losing that youthful energy and passion then it’s too high a price to pay. If you let it, “Teen Age Riot” can be the spark to a sense of urgency that you hadn’t even realised you’d lost. “Teen Age Riot” will electroshock your apathy and reawaken your willingness to throw yourself into the fire, to hell with the risks because life is just too fucking short.
“Got a foghorn and a drum and a hammer that’s rockin’/ And a cord and a pedal and a hammer that’ll do me for now.”
Of course there’s a few downsides to being a teenager- school sucks, you’ve got no money, everyone suspects that you’re a criminal and all the cool venues tell you to keep moving. You’ve got to make your own fun with whatever you can find, whether it’s a beat up guitar, a skate park or a football. More than any other time in your life it’s what you make of it that counts. Luckily your imagination will never be more fertile then when you’re a teen. Sonic Youth can testify to that. In their embryonic stage in New York’s burgeoning underground art-rock scene Sonic Youth would collect cheap, broken, out of tune second hand guitars wherever they found them and experiment on them to create new sounds that pushed the boundaries of what a rock band could sound like.
“Teen Age Riot”, the lead single off the magnum opus Daydream Nation, would propel Sonic Youth from indie scene darlings into mainstream rock icons. Over more than twenty years, Sonic Youth have consistently produced a staggeringly high number of quality releases. Though their sound has morphed and evolved over the journey, the youthful vigour and carefree spirit so celebrated in “Teen Age Riot” has rarely been surpassed.
Here’s to the elusive freedom and hope of youth. We waste it when we have it and we forever lament its loss after it slips out of our grasp.
Sonic Youth’s fifth studio album, Daydream Nation, was released in October 1988 on Enigma Records.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.