[10 April 2008]
Once there was a day, hard to remember as it may sometimes be in an age when determining who is more “indie” than who can be a music lover’s favorite pastime, when rock and roll as an art form had little to do with experimentation, innovation, or credibility. It was about lust, rebellion, and soul as expressed by pounding drums, slithering, bluesy guitars, and raucous vocals. The Teenage Prayers are a throwback to that day. Raw, rambunctious, and sexually charged, the NYC-based band knows how to blow the top off a rock song and create three-to-four minute long musical parties.
The Teenage Prayers’ YouTube channel contains a quote attributed to lead vocalist Tim Adams, a description of the band’s sound that reads “an unholy orgy between the Kinks, the Band, and Booker T. & the MGs, photographed by Mick Rock, and published as a centerfold in Hustler.” If these truly are Adams’ words, he is remarkably self-aware and possesses an ability to frame the work of his band that far surpasses anything a listener or critic could construct. With heaping doses of Memphis soul and British invasion rock as well as a few traces of roots music, the band has a purist’s view of what makes a great rock tune and they deliver the twelve songs on this, their second record, with swagger and style.
Adams’ considerable magnetism is at the center of Everyone Thinks You’re the Best . The vocalist projects self-assurance and a knowing cool while displaying a wealth of grit and soul, a glorious cocktail of aplomb and yearning in his singing. However, just because Adams comes across as a definite rock star doesn’t mean he outshines the rest of his band; the four gents who join Adams in The Teenage Prayers (though if their robust songs of lust are to be believed, gentlemen might not be the right term) share a go-for-broke approach to their playing and their audacity, more often than not, pays off.
Songs, on this record, which best exemplify the motives and the mission of The Teenage Prayers include album opener “I Like It” (questionable sexual mores and all: Adams sings of a girl who he doesn’t like and who looks sick, but those very reasons turn him on to the point of going home with her), the sweet soulful shuffle of “I’m in Love Again” and the beautiful longing of the ballad “Don’t Call”. These tracks contain a wonderful mix of the styles, elements and attitudes articulated above; these songs also suggest that a live encounter with The Teenage Prayers just might be one of the more dangerous and rewarding experiences one could have. Some bands, on a recording, just serve notice that they would sound great live. The Teenage Prayers seem to be one such band.
Where the band still needs a bit of work is in maintaining a consistent ethic in songwriting and arrangement. Ironically, the band’s predilection for playing loud and proud can be a detriment to their potency; tunes like “No Sex” and “Good Voodoo” are all bravado and force and not as endearing as other tunes. The Teenage Prayers do, at times on this record, display an ability to include nuance in their work (“I’m in Love Again,” “Heiroglyph”) which should be encouraged and furthered as they continue to record.
In total, though, this is a rollicking ride, an extremely enjoyable album which should win over a great many listeners. Everyone Thinks You’re the Best is evidence that The Teenage Prayers seem a band ready to take the next steps toward stardom.