Alright, well 2020 is finally behind us! That shitshow of a year is now a touch over a month in our rear-view and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that 2021 is already so much bet…uh…well, we may be off to a rocky start but there’s still many months ahead. To be honest, it kind of feels like last year is simply rinsed by a new number and now we’re on repeat. In fact, since this is a review for Teenage Wrist’s upcoming album Earth Is A Black Hole, it only feels right to use a lyric of theirs to sum up what some of our current states of mind could be: ‘I can’t help but feel that we’re all fucked.’. Although, it can’t honestly ALL be as bad as all that. There must still be some of that good good out there, and even through the trials and tribulations that come from both everyday life AND of living in a pandemic, sometimes you just need to search for a little hope and happiness. What a fitting album title though for the current times, no? Earth Is A Black Hole. The band has undergone some slight changes since their last outing; original vocalist Kamtin Mohager parted ways amicably to focus on his project The Chain Gang of 1974 and stepping up in place is guitarist Marshall Gallagher. I recently read an interview with Gallagher stating that (like so many other things) the pandemic had put a bit of a delay on initially finishing their album, and yet rather than let that bring them down they used this time to perfect it all and perhaps use that extended ‘deadline’ for a little reflection which in some ways influenced further writing and broadened the subject matter. Once you give this incredible album a full listen through, you’ll see that regardless of directly relating to our current lives or not, Earth Is A Black Hole does an absolutely stunning job of navigating all of the ups and downs for a life in a pandemic and beyond.
Genre: Shoegaze | Alternative | Grunge
Release: February 12th, 2021
FLOW / LONGEVITY / ORIGINALITY
First things first. When I heard the intro track to Earth Is A Black Hole, “Squeeze” (which is strictly instrumental), I got serious Jane’s Addiction vibes (and obviously in saying that I’m showing how my wrists are REALLY not in their teenage years…). And to be completely honest, I got super pumped right off the bat. For even a simple and short instrumental intro, it had a shit-ton of energy and feel-good vibes. Perhaps, a bit perplexing considering the shadowy flipside of certain other song themes, but it was an attention grabber, nonetheless. If nothing more it sets the tone in regard to how the rest of this album is to play out going from track to track. They thought this out quite well folks. Every song flows so well into the next it’s like holding the longest of multiple mashed together strings of silly putty off a roof. All the colors ease into one another, but you know it’s a different batch each time due to the change of hue (the latter part of that excessively long metaphor is in fact stating that while each song DOES transition perfectly into the next, each track has its own distinct identity).
As I’ve grown older and my tastes in music have become exceedingly broader with each year, I find myself (who used to be a self proclaimed ‘metal head’) gravitating towards happier sounding tunes, albeit some don’t always have the most bright and shiniest of topics, lyrically speaking. Sure, when I’m working out or feel like ripping off my roof in fury, I tend to throw on some Bleeding Through or the like, and yet when I’m cruising around on a sunny afternoon or dancin’ around my place in nothing but boxers with a cocktail in my hand, I spin something fun (sounding, at least) and easily enjoyed by all. Luckily, even through this never-fucking-ends pandemic, I’ve been feeling a whole helluva lot more on the latter and Teenage Wrist has quite often been my sounds of choice. This album has been on a constant replay cycle. Not only based on mood, but because it has that quality. I double-dog dare you to press play on “New Emotion” or “Wasting Time” and not immediately spring a big goofy smile on your face while tapping your foot and bobbing your head. I promise you, you will literally waste time while listening to “Wasting Time” in sheer delight only realizing roughly 14 minutes later you’ve actually had the song jamming four times in a row.
In my humble opinion, Teenage Wrist do have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. In their own way, they have created a form of originality in a sect of music that isn’t often easy to do. I mean, yea. We’ve heard similar bands before, but this band’s unique combo of shoegaze meets grunge meets pop meets alternative all comes together in a blasty blast of a blend, setting them apart from many of their peers. Case in point, “Silverspoon”. It’s grunge-esque intro and bridge after the first verse brings to mind a dingier sounding band, and yet the almost ethereal and harmonious verses scream shoegaze. Bring forth the chorus, and you got a poppy alternative singalong.
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
As I had previously stated in the intro paragraph, Teenage Wrist have a new fully vocalizing vocalist. No more ‘in addition to…’ on the choruses and such. Marshall Gallagher is now the full-fledged frontman, and I could not be more ecstatic about that. His voice just so perfectly fits this new-ish sound the band is not only ‘going for’ but has rocked. On the verses of “High Again” he sounds airy and dreamy, yet during the chorus his voice oozes desire and yearning to reflect the deeply saddening words. Gallagher has a fantastic range that is more than suited to reflect what each word is wishing to represent. And with this being his first outing completely manning the mic he has done an excessively fantastic job, and it only leaves the listener’s ears wondering what could possibly come next.
When pondering the instrumentation on Earth Is A Black Hole, a beautiful quote by none other than Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind; ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication…it shows how beautiful and elegant things are when they are not lost in the detail’. What I’m getting at is that while the guitars and drums and all that may not be the most complex or deeply intricate, it’s in that fact that they find their magnificence. With a few notes and a quickened drum beat you immediately feel the sense of drastic urgency that would undoubtedly come with the words of the title track, and yet you wouldn’t even have to hear a syllable. It’s a lost art that one might actually use real instruments to convey such powerful emotion and intensity and yet here is Teenage Wrist showing it’s not only possible but can be done with an almost unrealistic ease. Throw in some new additions such as samples and ambient elements for only an extra touch as Opposed to being the only ‘instruments’ used, and you truly do have something so simple yet so textured and layered when all is said and done.
COMPOSITION / PRODUCTION
You know, a lot of these delays in new music being finalized and released has been to say the least, FUCKING FRUSTRATING AS HELL. But, it hasn’t been all for not. Many bands have put that time to good use, and rather THINK they’ve completed the so-called perfect project, they’ve gone back with a fine-tooth comb through every note and word. Painstakingly rehashed and renewed ideas and concepts to really and truly produce something magical. That couldn’t be clearer on Earth Is A Black Hole. The music fits everything they want listeners to take in, in perfect fashion. The lyrics aren’t just straight outta the dictionary and thesaurus. They’re poetic in nature, yet easily digested by both the heart and mind. To say that Teenage Wrist used that bit of extra time to write what they would have, and others will consider a magnificent release would be an understatement.
The production can be somewhat muddy at times…and that’s GREAT! When the sound the band is attempting to achieve is to be of the grungier type, then you want those guitars to sound a little muddled. Yet when they have those big, soaring choruses the production adds to that crisp and clean sound. The production matches each tone and element with such excellence that it’s blaringly obvious there was just as much time and thought put into it as there was the music itself.
2021 is off to a rough and shaky start. It’s hard to know where all this is going to end up. I often find myself asking…myself…are we actually all fucked? Or could there be light at the end of this seemingly vantablack like tunnel? And you know what? OF COURSE, THERE IS! Yes, there will be some massively large speed bumps along the way, but there is zero chance that it will all be for jack shit. We have friends we can call, family for whom we can drop off a little gift on their doorstep, movies at our fingertips…just hit that Netflix button on your new tv’s remote, and of course music to lose ourselves in. Teenage Wrist’s latest offering is a welcome set of soundscapes to blare while you contemplate everything else going on in this world as a whole and assuredly your very own as well. With bops for days and emotional jams for those harder moments in your life, Earth Is A Black Hole has got you covered. This album is only the beginning of a whole new chapter for this band, and I cannot wait to see what else the future holds in store.