PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

My Favorite: The Kids Are All Wrong

Doug Wallen

My Favorite

The Kids Are All Wrong

Label: Double Agent
US Release Date: 2002-07-30
Amazon
iTunes

With retro posturing running especially rampant in the rock underground, Long Island's criminally overlooked My Favorite provides a fresh antidote to such fashion-over-function flybys.

Instead of simply rehashing the mood and sounds of a bygone era, the band aims to continue in the thematic tradition of misanthropic Brit idols like Bowie, the Jam, Joy Division, the Smiths, Gary Numan, and New Order. Vintage synthesizers shimmer alongside bristly guitar jangle and the sensually bored vocals of Andrea Vaughn and frontman Michael Grace Jr., as tales of teenage, suburban isolation come surreally to life in Grace's evocative lyrics.

My Favorite has been kicking around in obscurity since the mid-'90s, when the band released a sporadic batch of singles to the open arms of indie-pop America and virtually nobody else. After several false starts and lineup changes, Grace and company emerged with the creatively evolved debut Love at Absolute Zero (Double Agent), compiling updated versions of some of those singles tracks ("Go Kid Go", "Working Class Jacket") with urgent new classics.

Absolute Zero won appropriately zealous acclaim from the press, little of which has seemed to translate into visibility and record sales. My Favorite thus remains a cult band, toiling solely for the satisfaction of its players and a lucky legion of adherents. Forgoing a typical sophomore showing, the quintet -- now Grace, Vaughn, guitarist and music co-writer Darren Amadio, bassist Gil Abad, and a drummer known only as "Todbot" -- announced a trilogy of four-song EPs.

The first, 2000's Joan of Arc Awaiting Trial, found a swell allegory for existential teen frustration in the historical figure. Lines like "Loneliness is pornography to them / But to us it is an art" and "I wear her dreams like a badge / I flash before the criminal world" have potential to come off as either pretentious or absurd, but with the band's sincere delivery and respectful homage, every word rings true.

A second installment, last year's A Cult of One, offered more heartfelt lyrical wisdom still, with the band's themes of choice hardly couched in a song title like "The Suburbs are Killing Us". Though many of these songs begin to sound too much alike musically, Grace always displays an engaging, subversive knack for unearthing something new amid what would otherwise be hackneyed images of pills, porn, leather jackets, lonely bedrooms, rainy nights, ghosts, sex, cigarettes, cassettes, Polaroids, and vampires.

The Kids Are All Wrong, the trilogy's closing chapter, is overshadowed by a gloomy theme of nuclear annihilation. Of course, My Favorite finds something freeing in even this subject, brandishing the mantra, "The bomb will bring us together", on back of the EP's sleeve. And just so you know Grace hasn't lost his wit, the first and third songs feature 'The Depressed Men's Choir featuring Mr. Love'.

"Burning Hearts", mournfully mid-tempo, opens with "We met first in cafes, and later in ruins / My best friend and I are saying goodbye to Hiroshima". The chorus is luxuriously delivered by Vaughn in a warm air of '80s-preserved melodies -- "I was an architect, she was an actress / I drew the Eiffel Tower on her dress, so we could see the world". A chilling line -- "All of this snow just made us glow in the dark" -- marks yet another feat of Grace's often dark humor, ending the song along with a mischievous series of la la la la's.

The next song, unabashedly titled "The Radiation", puts this image of a nuclear winter in line with sexual frustration and fallen saints, with a first chorus of "Let's go out in the radiation / It's Sebastian who broke his vows / He put you on the television / Turning tricks in a haunted house" and second of "Let's go out in the radiation / It's Theresa who broke your heart / She put you on the television / Suffering only for your art". It sounds cliché here, but as sung by Grace, it's indelibly haunting. "Let's do it, while the night still makes us sick", he sings with Vaughn at song's end.

On "Rescue us", there is a more sociological vibe, though still spiked with wit -- "Rescue us! / With our figureheads in cutout bins / Even punks need safety pins / Rescue us! / Because I don't want to be a hero anymore". Vaughn sings, "When I was girl / I murdered my parents / I thought I could sing my way to Paris", before "Rescue us! With our photocopied tragedies / Even goths need rosaries / Rescue us! Because I don't want to be your hero anymore". Again, there is a closing line full of sad-sack angst -- "It was never this cold in my dreams / And I think I might have fought for the wrong side".

In an unexpected break from the band's familiar musical template, the closing "The Lesser Saints" is a dreamy, dreary ballad flecked with piano and a first verse sung through vocoder (i.e. robot voice) by Grace. He rhymes more simply than usual -- "At a seaside home for convalescence / I took his name in vain during piano lessons / Three nuns like shadows came and dragged me up the stairs / Then beat me black and blue with my book of prayers". The most memorable line, though, turns out to be "I closed my eyes until they were gone / And then fell asleep with my headphones on".

If we're focusing on lyrics more than music here, well, that's because My Favorite is most appealing in that sense, which is meant more as praise for Grace's words than as insult towards the players' music. It's just that, as with the Silver Jews' David Berman or the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, sometimes lyrics are the prize element of success.

What the band seems to do best, besides refreshing stale notions (musically and lyrically both), is conjure songs as fiercely intellectual and tenderly heartbroken as they are backhandedly effervescent and irresistibly danceable. One would assume that this low-key trilogy will eventually be compiled on a single disc, and when it is, maybe some of the kids stuck on the retro hipness of Interpol or the Faint will find something geekishly loveable in My Favorite.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.