Since 2007, Teenanger has been getting leaner and meaner, like some punchy boxer whipping himself into fighting form. The band’s origins are the stuff of modest legend. Vocalist Chris Swimings, bassist Mellissa Ball, drummer Steve Sidoli and guitarist Jon Schouten found each other and ended up jamming in the basement of a west end Toronto hair salon, until a spat with the owner saw them out on the street: busted, bankrupt, on the verge of breaking up before they’d barely begun.
The band preserved. Obviously. Would you be reading a bio of a band whose only distinction was meeting, jamming in the basement of a hair salon, then breaking up? Seems like a waste of time, reading something like that. (To say literally nothing of writing it.) Teenanger began courting an audience hungry for fun, sweaty, grimy rock and roll through local shows, and DIY releases. Of their first full-length, 2010’s Give Me Pink, music monthly Exclaim! wrote, “from the straight-outta-1970 vocal treatment to the vintage guitar and bass tones, everything on Give Me Pink serves to perfect a mood and attitude that the band are able to build on with each of these 12 songs.”
That mood and attitude has tightened since Give Me Pink, as Teenanger began purging themselves of swinging, garage influences, and learning to rock more than roll. With 2012’s follow-up, Frights, the band crafted a record hailed by the Toronto branch of The AV Club as “probably the best Canadian rock record since CPC Gangbangs let Mutilation Nation loose in 2007.” Elsewhere, critics praised the band’s “deafening intensity” and extolled the band as “astute students of garage-punk tradition, hitching themselves to the spiritual lineage that connects the 13th Floor Elevators’ sneering psychedelia, the Stooges’ death-trip deviance and The Gun Club’s roadhouse rave-ups.”
And 2013’s smart-assily named Singles Don’t $ell fared even better, earning a perfect rating from Toronto’s NOW Magazine, who called it “a pounding, mean, intermittently paranoid (Teenanger, Surveillance) record crammed with sneered lyrics, lashing rhythms and coiling feedback riffs.” SD$ introduced the world to a catchier, more texturized Teenanager through the use of synthesizers.
The bands quick follow up and latest offering “E P L P” saw the band move in a smoother more direction while still maintaining the core Teenanger sound. This was done primarily through the introduction of Melissa Ball on lead vocals on “Mild Survival” and the free jazz saxophone solo on the mid tempo burner “Twisted”.
But music critics are rotten with adjectives and backward-looking nostalgia for ripped-up skinny jeans and beat-up Chuck Taylors. Ask someone who just made out of one their shows what they think of Teenanger. They’ll probably, like, yell half-coherently and then wing an empty Pilsner tallboy at your head as they pitch back into some trash. It’s fun. And fast. And convincingly puts across the attitude of not giving a fuck that has defined all the best punk bands. If you can count yourself among those fortunate enough to be bearing witness to a Teenanger performance this year, bring your barf bag, tie your house keys to your jeans and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Melissa Ball – Bass
Jon Schouten – Guitar
Steve Sidoli – Drums
Chris Swimmings – Vocals