If you’re not familiar with The Teenagers’ particular brand of sleaze pop, download ‘Homecoming’ for quick refresher course: think Grease’s ‘Summer Loving’, as re-played by a vacuous Blonde cheerleader and a potty-mouthed European lothario. Grabbing attention through shock-tactics is normally tantamount to reserving a spot next to Eminem in the Woolworths bargain bin, but fortunately their sardonic Rashomon-esque take on the traditional ‘boy meets girl, boy sleeps with girl, boy doesn’t send girl friend request’ narrative was one of the most surprising and fun singles of last year. As a result, lazy journalists were quick to throw the Parisian trio in with the new wave of electro surging out of their hometown. But, with more of their songs now available it’s clear they’re more an indie guitar band, complete with a few swooping M83 style synths, than a Justice or Kavinsky. Their task with ‘Reality Check’, then, is to prove that there’s more to them than a novelty group who lucked out by growing up near the cool kids.
Admittedly, they don’t help their cause by seeming to have a one track mind. Their obsession with the steamy exploits of those in the formative ages (being three guys who have clearly left theirs’ behind) would be cause for the Daily Mail to start a campaign if it wasn’t clearly so tongue in cheek. This is a band that are very aware they have one idea; but for the first few songs you willingly go with it. ‘Love No’ sounds like a minimalist version of an 80s
power ballad sung by men with funny accents. Second single ‘Starlett Johansson’ is a cunningly disguised message of devotion to the band’s favourite Hollywood actress. Confessing “I know you’re born in 84/Half polish half Danish”, it’s the best ode to stalkerdom since Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’.
Unfortunately, stretched over a long player the limits of their sound become gratingly apparent. While the spoken word narrative was part of what made ‘Homecoming’ get a A+, when it pops up on almost every song you remember why it’s a technique that went out of fashion with the spice girls. ‘Make it’, with its pseudo-philosophical exposition, interrupted every thirty seconds by an inane chorus, could be released by Posh and co. as comeback single without anyone batting an eyelid. When the band use their aesthetic well, as on ‘Fuck Nicole’, the heavily accented acerbic lyrics sharply creating the drugs and sex fuelled world of the girl “just nineteen/ but already the bitchiest queen” over yearning synths and simple scuzzy riffs, they can be refreshingly insincere in a world of Nickelbacks and Onerepublics. Self titled track ‘The teenagers’ sets out their mission statement: ‘If you’re cold and alone/ We don’t care/ Just buy our t-shirts’. However, on more conventional pop songs, minus the wit, they quickly become monotonous and irritating. Like at school, not everyone passes their exams. Download the singles; the rest Must Try Harder.