Review Jonathan Amor
With The Great Sadness, Teenage Wedding have delivered a standout debut record that recalls the dissonant yet heartening indie-rock of Pavement and Modest Mouse while etching out a pop vision to call their own. The project of Zuzu's Petals singer/guitarist Nick Joy, is a six track EP featuring Ben McCormack on drums alongside Cosima Friesen and Claire Guimond of Victoria dark-pop stars Aquarius and was produced on Salt Spring Island in February 2016 by Owen Hooper of Mouth Breather, who also played bass on the album. Hooper's production could be the result of a mind-meld with Joy; the album has a sonic cohesiveness that wraps around Joy's distinct artistic voice and delivers Teenage Wedding to the world, ready to greet us as a weird friend in troubled times.
The lead-off track and single City Lights is the anthemic highlight of the record. Breaking out of an opening stasis of swelling synth and a slow methodical drumbeat, twin jangly guitars rise to the surface, sounding as if they are reaching skyward for something in the distance before gently receding back to earth. When Joy's confidently warbling vocals arrive after an extended intro jam, the first words he delivers are “tangled in what is and what ain't”. Heading out from this place of confusion, he sings clearly from his own perspective, but just as well takes the mic for a lost generation trying to find themselves and their place in the world. Shimmering, eerie synths hover above the track as Joy sings of wasted city nights, while the sweet melodic interplay of swirling guitars persist. There is a refreshing spirit of playfulness through pain in this music. It's impossible to not sing along to the highly satisfying chorus, especially when Joy yelps “I hate the city li-hiiiife whoo-hoo-hoo”, giving a strong example to the band's self-proclaimed “chill-billy” style.
For those looking for some poetic wisdom with their guitar pop the second track, Sun Rising, with hints of early Smog in its dissonant, dirgy breakdowns and minimalist piano, features Joy staring into the abyss, trying to make sense of the ineffable but refusing to accept a simple “name or explanation in the face of the universal mystery.” Flesh Prism follows up on this quest, finding Joy holding steady to some idea of what's going on here, sketching out a worldview with a clear mystical bend that recalls Plato's allegory of the cave. The result is an insightful and defiant stream of consciousness, garage-pop tune with echoes of the Kinks' finest.
On the psychedelic-lovers missive Outta Sight, the thoughts and emotions of The Great Sadness begin to take their toll. The song features Joy repeatedly asking his love to believe what is coming up “is far out, but it's outta sight, not outta mind,” and striving to remain connected and responsive through gaps in understanding. All this leads Joy to a fitting resolution —let's leave our confusions behind for a simple but fiery night of romantic fun.
Trying to enjoy life through alienation, the struggle to connect, romantic escape and disillusionment, the loss of meaning and purpose —these are some of the elements of The Great Sadness. Thankfully, for those who hold on to music through the dark, the Teenage Wedding procession is just getting started.