Spotlight – Teen Inc.

Teen Inc. hails from Los Angeles and is centered around the Aged brothers of Andrew (lead guitar, vocals) and Daniel (bass). The rest of the band is comprised of Sir Michael, Sam and Lemar, all on rhythm guitar, keys and drum set/machine, respectively. The group has released a 7 in. entitled “Fountains/Friend of the Night,” and is currently working hard at compiling a full-length album to be released in the near future. They are unsigned, as far as I know, gleaning what information I could from their myspace and official website.

IT’S NOT OFTEN that an opening act, let alone the first group of the night, is able to upstage the other performers on the bill, overshadowing the headliner and other openers to effectively take the audience to the height of the night, all before the clock’s even struck nine.

But Teen Inc.’s performance Dec. 1st at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz opening for Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Diva set the bar exceptionally high for the night, dazing the crowd into a state of catatonic pleasure that sent us grooving and hollering at a level that was unmatched by the other two groups. Teen Inc. took me on such a funky flashback ride, shaking me to my musical core with a sound simultaneously radical in its ingenuity yet familiar in its latent ’80s tropes, that I felt impelled to share these impressions of a band about to turn the corner and make some noise in the underground indie scene.

The first thing that came to mind at the start of the set was Prince, and not because the Purple Rain album, specifically “I Would Die 4 U,” has been stuck on repeat in my iTunes to the point where my housemates are considering kicking me out because they’re sick of listening to it. Prince and the synthy ’80s energy was conjured up within me throughout Teen Inc.’s performance. It was the subtle sexuality lining the undertones of each song, mixed with Andrew Aged’s high-pitched, melancholic mumble that seemed to be yearning for some answer from the crowd.

The most striking element was Aged’s solo style. Present throughout the set, Aged’s graceful, glistering guitar shredding rounded off Teen Inc.’s sound, giving it a texture that topped it off with an electric vibrancy that invigorated the musical experience. The solos didn’t overpower the melody like a heavy metal, roots rock or Jimmy Page solo would. Instead, they dotted the melody with striking embellishes.

Tom G. of the band Twigz told me one of the most important elements of a good song is its ability to move and progress forward, keeping the listener engaged and curious as to where the piece will lead, which involves breaking away from the typical verse-chorus-verse formula stagnating popular music.

This is Teen Inc., an attribute that defines them as an underground outfit a cut above the rest. Their songs had staccato beats that seemed to be chomping at the bit to be unleashed from their artists’ instruments, pushing the tunes with an urgency that kept me on my toes wondering where the song would lead and surprising me when it got there. This emotion can be heard in the opening measures of “Fountains,” where the listener is pulled along by the building and budding beats, to the final bloom of electric twinkling from the keys and lead guitar.

Not to mention that Teen Inc.’s songs don’t rely on a consistent melody that stays persistent from start to finish. Their songs had a quality I first noticed in The Beatles song, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” which showcases four heroin fueled vignettes, each unique and unrelated harmonically to the others, to the point where one could imagine each being their own individual Beatles song if they weren’t all put together as one. The same can be said of “Friend of the Night,” which ends on a different note than when it began, maintaining some of the introductory melody as it branches out to develop the song into a funky, dope bass driven syncopated jam that gives the tune a multifaceted shape able to be approached from various angles.

Teen Inc. is a group all of its own, unmatched by other acts today. Of course, there are connections to Ariel Pink, where both acts utilize a retro feel that tilts towards a washed out, lo-fi garage sound that has an intentional and distinct warped vibe, like a cassette tape that’s been sitting in a hot car too long. But with Ariel Pink, there is an obnoxious, over-the-top playfulness that makes his music as fun as it is funny, whereas Teen Inc. has a more morose, carnal nightlife vibe fitted for a hip L.A. underground all black themed party. One could see that in the way each band dressed, with Ariel Pink looking like a transvestite Kurt Kobain in a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ long sleeve with a beer belly, while the members of Teen Inc. all had an array of black, some sporting leather jackets, others with painted on jeans, most with black goth-like boots, sprinkled with the occasional sullen stare into the crowd.

Teen Inc. left an impression that has me excited and antsy for more music. Keep these guys on the radar, they’re on the verge of blowing up. Once the full-length drops, assuming it does, expect to be reading and hearing about Teen Inc. throughout the indie circuit. Keep an ear out..

Fountains

Friend of the Night

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