When you’re a teenager, love really sucks. It’s frustrating, confusing, and usually heartbreaking. And it can also be woefully embarrassing. If you kept a diary or had a poetic streak during your teenage years, there are no doubt reams of paper that you wish were buried or burned. If you were in a band, God forbid if those demo tapes you recorded on a basement boombox ever find the light of day.
Metal Hearts are fronted by two not-yet-20 boys who bonded over the same girl, and used that fuel to record their self-released first album Escapists. Almost as soon as it was in the can, the boys begun work on their sophomore effort and debut label release Socialize. Melding simple guitar lines and amateur beats, it would appear the duo still aren’t over their girl troubles.
Falling somewhere between Modest Mouse’s earlier quirkiness and Cat Power’s Moon Pix era spaciousness, Metal Hearts is almost boringly familiar. It doesn’t help matters that the boys playing is merely passable. The guitar lines exist merely to propel the song forward, failing to linger in the memory beyond the three minutes of the song. Worse, the programmed beats make the Postal Service seem like Aphex Twin. Overall, by the latter half of Socialize it seems that Anar Badalov and Flora Wolpert-Checknoff are already recycling ideas.
Where the band do succeed is in the vocal department. Clear, direct, darkly humorous and morosely deadpan, Metal Hearts possess an instantly recognizable personality that most new indie bands lack. It’s too bad then the lyrics read, well, like they were written by two heartsick and bitter boys. “I’m so empty I can’t eat/so empty I can’t sleep/I’m so lonely where she’d go/Has she flown across the ocean or has she gone home,” reads and performs like bad high school poetry. Elsewhere, lines like “You can watch me fester in masturbatory quiet” or “Your friend’s on the telephone/he’s calling my bluff/He’s telling you I touched her” are just immature. The problem with Socialize is that even though Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff aren’t afraid to put themselves upfront, their amateur and adolescent emotions simply don’t resonate. The band’s need to inject their musings with a detached and sour outlook keeps the audience at a distant.
“We are already working on our next record, and words can’t describe how excited we are about getting it out to people. It’s far more expressive and evolved than Socialize is, although we do feel Socialize is a good start,” says Wolpert-Checknoff in the band’s press material. One wonders if band themselves already feel their new material is better why we should even bother with this release. It’s unfortunate, but Socialize feels in every way like the product of teenagers. It’s sour and depressive, but completely transient in the way teenage emotions are. Fleeting and forgettable, Socialize brings you back to that time in your life that don’t really want to remember.