If you checked out my last blog entry, you’ll be well aware of my picks for the top 10 album releases of 2018. It was certainly hard for me to organize which albums would make the list and in what order, but from its March 9 release, I knew that Teenage Wrist’s debut, Chrome Neon Jesus, would stay at number 1 all year. And that decision remained; when it came time to finalize my list, that blue-tinted album cover found itself at the bottom of my blog post. This all might sound dramatic, but… All right, it is. Welcome to me. Anyway, I wanted to spend this blog taking a more in-depth look at Chrome Neon Jesus and why it resonates with me.
I first heard about Teenage Wrist from the releases of their first two releases as a band, the singles Slide Away and Afterglow. I loved their sound from the start: alternative rock, with blends of shoegaze and a bit of a grunge-y sound. Even the band’s name made me think of the pot-stirrers of ‘90’s grunge culture into early the aughts post-grunge era. Teenage Wrist’s sound is simple and accessible, in a good way—they create some seriously catchy tunes. But for me, it’s vocalist’s Kamtin Mohager’s breathy, soothing voice that makes them stand out.
Following the release of their first EP Dazed in 2015, the band put out another single, “Stoned, Alone,” that would become the first single from their upcoming debut. But the 2-year gap between that single and the album made me think they might have been a short-lived name, swallowed up (yes I just gave you a Teenage Wrist pun, and yes you must deal with it) by the unforgiving music industry. But eventually, new singles “Dweeb” and “Swallow” were unveiled, along with the title and cover art for their first full-length album, under their new label, Epitaph Records. Thanks, Epitaph!
Maybe it’s the aesthetic of the band that draws me in part of the way; they’re moody, they’re blending genres that I love and can be rather picky with, if I’m being honest (I’m looking at you, emo. Sure, I call myself emo all the time, but I’m not going to call myself “post-grunge.” I don’t think that’s a thing), and they are an easy band to listen to. There’s no shtick, which I’m okay with sometimes. They found their sound with Chrome Neon Jesus and let the music mold how listeners perceive them. It’s ultimately darker than the songs on their EP, it’s heavier than the previous tracklist, and it is inspired by the band’s musical predecessors without making them look like a bunch of posers, in my opinion.
Let’s take a look at some of the individual songs: one of my favorites is “Rollerblades.” The rhythm of the guitar hooked me in right away, and lyrics like “I never look around to see how far I’ve come” are reminiscent of youth, drawing upon the fact that we sometimes achieve so much, or get through certain hardships without really noticing. We get so lost in ourselves, stuck in routine that we forget to appreciate what we have. That’s how I read the line from the first verse, as well: “saved from going through the storm.” Yes, it’s clear that themes of love radiate throughout. But I think that’s part of it; people go through a lot in the name of love, and some people are blind to toxicity. In this song, you’ve made it, and you’re better for it.
Another song I love on this record is “Black Flamingo.” If nothing else, this song brings up so many interesting images and ideas that make us draw our own conclusions. Now, usually that can come across as pretentious, especially in creative outlets such as poetry. Most of the time I look for concrete stories and situations, but that’s hard to do in music. In this song, certain images stand out to me, like “My neon black flamingo.” It makes me wonder, what in all heck is that? But the picture that comes to mind is clear, and it’s strange, but to me, it represents timelessness. The song concludes, in a way, that love is timeless, as well. A flamingo is natural, and has lived in history for many years. But altering the pink color we’re accustomed to introduces change, and bringing in the neon hands us futurism. So when Kamtin croons, “I’ve been hiding out in the chrome black hole in time,” things start to make a bit more sense. Because when he looks into this person’s eyes, he feels timeless, and ethereal, in a sense. Layer that with the ethereal, flowing sounds of this song, and many of the songs on this album, and we have ourselves a winner.
Some of my other favorite songs are “Dweeb,” “Spit,” and “Waitress,” to name a few. Chrome Neon Jesus is a great collection of songs, none of which I skip through, which made a huge impact on my decision to make it my favorite album of 2018. Let’s hope we see a lot more of Teenage Wrist in the future, and let’s hope this sound stays with them along the ride! Luckily for me, they’ll be at the 8123 Festival hosted by The Maine (look at me both humble-bragging and dating myself) in Phoenix, so my desire to see them live will soon come true. Have you listened to Teenage Wrist’s music? If so, what do you think about it? Let’s discuss!