My Teenage Stride
Ears Like Golden Bats
rooklyn’s My Teenage Stride inhabits a subculture that is perhaps the most maligned in all of indie rock: the heart-on-sleeve torchbearers of forgotten pastel pop. While metal is permitted the freedom to be ironic, house music is allowed to incorporate disco-balled indulgences, and trad-rock posers are given the go-ahead to rep the Velvets without a hint of actual religious devotion, any band tagged as twee or fey (that doesn’t boast a membership over five) is cast an embarrassing chuckle and swiftly relegated into the endless parade of rainy-day misanthropes, heads hung in accordance to their bleach-skinned heroes. Some probably latch onto support groups and message boards aimed to help such retro-minded introverts cope with the millennial backlash. Rare examples like Jedediah Smith, the principle mope behind Ears Like Golden Bats, remain unapologetic and continue crooning in faux-accents, talking to their pristine record collections like imaginary friends.
Throughout Ears Like Golden Bats Smith sings quite confidently (an anomaly for the genre), if not already comfortably jaded, knowing inevitably that any reviewer worth his/her weight in obscure Flying Nun singles will be hard-pressed not to point out (at least 20 or so) of his most glaring influences. So, let’s indulge him for a moment: the soft-hued, prismatic guitar jangle of the Chills butts up against the jerky rhythms and nervous energies of Josef K and Orange Juice on “Actor’s Colony,” or in laymen’s terms, “To Live and Die in the Airport Lounge” intertwines the Smiths’ swiftly strummed melodies with New Order’s cinematic and propulsive basslines.
That confidence Smith possesses, at times, becomes boundless optimism, a refreshing contrast to the overwhelming melancholy that surrounds his songwriting. The mellatronic swirls and sublime keyboard tones of “The Genie of New Jersey” and increased tempos that give the impression songs like “Terror Bends” and “Chock’s Rally” are careening towards a welcomed edge provide a balance of mood, rather than a shake-up. Regardless of continuity, there’s a certain dalliance (the Wedding Present allusion is necessary) that, more often than not, forgives Smith’s obvious mid-‘80s love affair.
Sonically Ears Like Golden Bats forgoes any modern convenience: the album’s main offender is also its most charming surprise. Where others will search for the unattainable resonance of weathering cloudy forecasts and sun-flecked walks in the meadow, with buckets of reverb and clichéd effects from the era, My Teenage Stride sound naturally of the era. Even the most refined fan could be fooled into thinking this was recorded 20 years ago by some overlooked, second-tier outfit from Glasgow, Dunedin, or Leeds.
Take issue with My Teenage Stride (or not) for practicing the highest form of flattery—pop is not pop without quality songs and Ears Like Golden Bats is overflowing with them. Then again, this is a genre, and an album, that can only be critiqued subjectively by taking into consideration the beholder’s threshold for sugar, one’s adoration for certain scenes from John Hughes movies, and a total disregard to the current pulse of the indie underground. Unfashionable as the record may be, it’s a constant joy to listen to.