Teenanger

The scene reads like a seventies slasher flick. An ominous black boot emerges from behind the cab door as a burly man hoists himself out of the rusty tow truck. Tugging on the oil-stained shirt stretched across his heaving belly, the man eyes up the stranded musicians leaning against their broken-down tour van.

After hours milling about the Desert Inn Motel—a lonely hideaway that feels entirely too reminiscent of the infamous Bates Motel in Psycho—Teenanger are anxious to leave behind the smudge of a town that is Yeehaw Junction, Florida. It isn’t the rescue party they’d hoped for, but the Toronto-based quartet have little choice but to put their faith in the stranger as he motions for bassist Sharon Needles and drummer Salvatore to get into the cab of the rollback, leaving frontman Alex Lekay and guitarist G.C. Gary to the battered passenger van, now secured to the deck of the flatbed, for the long ride ahead.

Alex and G.C. fill their time with chain-smoking and talk of ex-girlfriends. Up front, nervous silence bookends redneck pleasantries:

“You guys smoke?, You guys do marijuana? I seen a 25-foot gator one time!”

While there’s every opportunity for the steely glint of a soon-to-be-bloody axe blade to make its way into the story, the gory thriller never quite materializes. It seems as though the greasy AAA driver is nothing more than a simpleton who takes pride in detailing the local sex trade as his exhaust-spewing vehicle rumbles down city streets.

“She’s hooking. She’s hooking. They’re all hooking tonight.”

We may not be dealing with the synopsis of a grainy late-night horror movie, but Teenanger’s recent tour misadventure will live on in infamy all the same.

Since releasing their debut full-length, Give Me Pink, the garage rock ruffians have amassed an arsenal of unbelievable tales. While playing shows everywhere from Cleveland to Orlando this past April, more often than not, the group lucked into the type of delinquency high school guidance counselors warn of in Just Say No pamphlets. It seems that moving beyond the cassette tape format—the medium for Teenanger’s first two demos, S/T and Banned from the Beaver—was all it took to rev up the wayward rockers’ appetite for high jinx. But then, you’d assume there would be energy to burn after being holed up in a practice space for almost a year fine-tuning what was to become their long player.

“It was nice to not have to think about recording for awhile and just take the time to write songs,” says G.C. on the line from his Toronto office. “We still had jobs and played some shows and stuff, but writing was the main focus.”

Teenanger’s knack for mixing the downbeat swagger of Gun Club with The Cramps’ glorified primitivism may have already been dialed when Banned from the Beaver emerged in 2008 (the recording was later rereleased as the B-side to a split LP with Charlie & the Moonhearts on Toronto’s Telephone Explosion Records), but their aesthetic has never been so fierce as what’s laid out on Give Me Pink.

“I don’t even know what to classify the record as,” says Alex the following day while on the hunt for couscous in Kensington Market, not far from where the new disc was recorded at 6 Nassau with studio co-owner James Anderson. “I want to say we play cowpunk, but if you say that, it’s like K.D. Lang or something.”

The “Constant Craving” queen is probably a better reference point, though, than cheesy retro-rock slop, which is how the album might have turned out had the gang paid another visit to Quest Recording Studio, the Oshawa-based studio behind Teenanger’s previous output and that of Canadian metal stalwarts Anvil.

“We’d be in his studio recording and we’d go out for a cigarette and we’d come back and Paul [LaChapelle] would be like, ‘So, I put this thing on the bass. Check it out,’” recounts G.C.. “We’d go and listen, and it would be like this backwards phaser thing, like the most antique Eighties sounding sound effect you could possibly think of.”

“I have a soft spot for Paul,” the guitarist continues. “I kind of missed recording with him this time, but James has a different pace—he’s 32 and lives downtown and is just like, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going’—which is what I think we needed.”

Give Me Pink is indeed the product of an engineer working at full throttle, and one who’s tapped into the no-frills M.O. espoused by current stars of the underground like Ty Segall and the Strange Boys. The songs, which are performed by blurry-eyed exhibitionists taking swills from the same jug of moonshine that ignited the spirit of Waylon Jennings and later, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, represent lowbrow rock at its finest. Crazed hootenanny mash ups like “MDMA Jam”—a number that pits a twangy, catchy-as-all-hell guitar line against mighty reverb-soaked vocals—flow into robust harmonica-infused romps like “Red Eye Station” with total ease.

“Sonically I don’t think it’s as gritty as it could be,” admits G.C.. “I have this sound of us in my brain and it’s not quite there. It sounds like us live though, and that was our intention—just to go in and record it live as a band and not do anything else.”

And perhaps that’s what accounts for the inexplicable energy pulsating throughout each track.

Teenanger is a band best enjoyed from the front row of a dingy dive. Nowhere else will you get such a sense of the down ‘n’ dirty swagger the outfit unleashes each time they plug into their amps. Catching them in the flesh also means that you might just find yourself immortalized in one of Teenanger’s outrageous tales, and who doesn’t want to be the topic of band lore during some late-night tall can-fuelled jam session years down the road?

[www.myspace.com/teenangerrr]

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