(HoZac Records, 2012)
OK, so I kinda sorta made it my New Year's resolution to stop comparing newer bands to older ones, with special attention paid to the tired "Well, these guys sound like the second coming of whatever iconic band from the 90s they sort of resemble, only not as good" declaration. It's easy and lazy and after wrestling with it for awhile, I've come to the conclusion that the music of the past is NOT automatically better than the new shit, by virtue of age or originality or whatever superficial criteria you choose to judge such things. There's all kinds of genres, but only so much room for evolution in rock n' roll, which was a pretty limited art form to begin with.
Aging has played a pretty big part in that nostalgic superiority complex, and the thing is, that sort of attitude used to drive me up a wall when I was younger! Jack Rabid's The Big Takeover was my bible as a teenager, and while it introduced to dozens of my all-time favorite bands, he insisted that the new wave of DIY punk bands I loved were too derivative of the scene Rabid grew up with in the late 70s. Back then, punk rock was morphing into hardcore, and bands like Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, and Gang Of Four were playing in his backyard every night. What a wonderful time to be alive! Etc, etc.
As a kid, I thought that line of reasoning was bullshit, and Tim Armstrong's voice sounding like Joe Strummer wasn't any more unoriginal or boring as Van Morrison trying to sing like a southern bluesman in the late 60s. I fuckin' LOVED Rancid, man! I'd listened to all the Clash albums and never heard Paul Simonon rip a bass solo like in "Maxwell Murder," and I knew the Ramones were incredible and ground-breaking, but Screeching Weasel were more crass and played faster weren't afraid to bust out a righteous guitar solo every now and again. I liked it ALL, and didn't understand why age made things more valid. After all, punk is just "Sugar Sugar" played loud and fast, right?!
I guess music critics just grow up and refuse to admit that their tastes are changing, and that the first bands they grew attached to were the end all and be all, and whatever comes next in the same vein is a pale retread of the past. Hell, I've written several reviews that refer to the 90s as the last golden age of music! I buy just as many records now as I did back then, and after careful consideration, that opinion is pretty much bullshit. As a music writer, you HAVE to explain what you're talking about, and you end up conjuring flowery metaphors while playing connect the dots between the entries on the RIYL list. If something's not that great, the mind immediately wanders to something you've heard before, but BETTER. It's simple, easy, and lazy. And not particularly honest.
For every classic Pavement jam, there's a third wave ska song that sounds like nails on a chalkboard. For every Rancid or Screeching Weasel, there were a dozen painfully bland pop punk bands. For every groundbreaking Portishead song, there were a thousand godawful techno "artists". For everything you like, there's something both equally better and worse. You can make a decent argument for ANY decade as being the last golden age, even the 80s. Once reviled production tricks like snappy reverb-gate drums are OK again, and the bands of today have actually figured out how to use that shit in its proper context, instead of trying to shoehorn it into heavy metal records in an attempt to get on the radio. This Teledrome single got played an awful lot when it first came out, and I reviewed it for GET BENT like so:
"To listeners burnt out on the dozens of sub-par Black Lips retreads littering the garage rock landscape, a band like Teledrome is a breath of fresh air. Make that a breath of COLD fresh air, since the icy, detached Gary Numan-style vocals and wobbly synth tones of Teledrome main-man Ryan Sadler offer little in the way of emotional warmth. He plays all the instruments on this loaded five track 7” EP, and makes the kind of music that would be best suited for dudes who wear all black and sport sunglasses at night, if it wasn’t for the chugging punk rock power chords and squealing 80s guitar solos that lift these songs into a territory most goths don’t care to inhabit.
Double Vision is a lot more fun than that description suggests, often sounding like vintage Killing Joke anthems in miniature, cramming plenty of vocal hooks and cheese-ball, head nodding Devo synth licks into songs that barely crack two minutes. The best track is “Dial Tone”, and it takes you away to a dark dance floor with strobe lights flashing away, pale fists pumping in unison, and black-clad hips shaking with abandon to the robotic drum machine beat. The muffled production sounds like one of those tapes dubbed endlessly and passed around to the cool kids back in the day, but don’t be surprised if Teledrome blows up huge with a bit more money and gloss thrown into the recording. This dude has too much talent to be underground for much longer."
There it is, comparisons to older bands, flowery metaphors, and all that other nonsense. Nothing but an entertaining little record that gets the nostalgia muscles flexing and offers a pleasant little diversion from everything else, right?! It's GOOD because it sounds like something that came out a long time ago, but its merits are lessened by something older and more lasting. Nah, dude. I thought that until I saw Teledrome on stage at the HoZac Blackout fest a few weeks ago, and was confronted by a full-on band that shoved those songs down my throat with double-time punk rock fury and a vibe that suggested these folks were not fucking around.
They weren't some pale retread or calculated oldies act, they were a fireball of pent-up aggression and visceral noise that played those songs like their lives depended on them. I don't think they were privy to the existential dilemma I go through every time I hear a record that doesn't blow my mind like Spiritualized did when I was seventeen, and holy shit was I glad for that. Maybe not caring about it is the key to a happier and healthier life. Teledrome is just REALLY good, and I'm not sure if context and history really improves the listening experience. Does it ever?