The last decade has been curiously absent of a few things – loud guitars, slamming drums, and powerful frontmen. These three things are, by and large, key elements in defining the sound of “rock n’ roll.” So, by this logic, it would be safe to say that rock n’ roll has been notably absent for the majority of the past decade. What these factors have been sacrificed for are things that are far more fleeting, and a sound that is better suited to impersonal, anonymous dance clubs than intimate, energetic, unpredictable rock n’ roll shows. This is music akin to a one night stand – meaningless, empty and, more often than not, something you look back on
embarrassedly, afraid to admit you indulged in such an act.
Teenage Kicks are the exact opposite of that. Their music is like the
girl you meet in high school that you end up marrying ten years later.
Their songs stay with you, and you grow to love more about them as
time goes by. It’s not a backdrop for drunken twenty-somethings
awkwardly lusting after each other in dark clubs, but a soundtrack for
young hearts finding true love and sharing moments that will stay with
them forever. In a nutshell, it’s rock n’ roll.
The band’s debut EP, Rational Anthems, is that soundtrack; a record
full of unforgettable melodies leading a charge backed by
stadium-sized guitars and exploding drums, with an overall tone that
paints a vivid picture of nostalgic, end of summer gatherings just as
easily as it could be played in a convertible on a long drive down an
Hailing from Toronto, the quintet – vocalist/guitarist Peter Van
Helvoort, bassist Jeff Van Helvoort, drummer Cameron Brunt and
guitarists Pat Marchent and Christian Turner - satisfy all aspects of
the rock spectrum within the confined space of their EP’s six songs.
The rousing opener, “Brooklyn Bridge,” is one long crescendo that
prepares the listener for the rest of the record, starting off with the a
clean guitar and the singer’s voice just above a whisper, and ending in
screams, feedback and pounding rhythms. The song acts as a roll call
for the band’s breadth of influences. Its gradual progression and steady
build-up is in step with modern indie rock sensibilities evidenced by
The Constantines, but the way the guitars explode with unapologetically
indulgent leads at the end represent’s Teenage Kicks’ unabashed love for
classic rock bands like The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Tracks like “Hearts Of Darkness” and “Lose Your Head” contain hooks at
every turn – the former featuring a call and response between vocal melodies
and piano fluorishes, and the latter surprising the listener with ghostly,
falsetto harmonies in its subdued breakdown – but never at the expense of the
fist-pumping catharsis inherent in all great rock bands.
In a perfect world, Teenage Kicks would be ushering in a new wave of
bands who are sick of the trite, contrived music passed off as rock n’
roll for the past decade, but even if this revolution never happens,
we should count our blessings that we have Rational Anthems – an
incendiary debut that instantly reminds us of all the reasons rock
music is such an enduring art form in the first place.
By Shehzaad Jiwani
Peter van Helvoort – Vocals, Guitar
Jeff van Helvoort – Vocals, Bass
Patrick Marchent – Guitar
Cameron Brunt – Drums
Christian Turner – Guitar, Vocals