Release Date: 09.28.99
Record label: Jump Up
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Midwest Punk - But Faster
by: steven jacobetz
To get an idea of what the Teenage Frames sound like, imagine if you will that some night in the late 70s at the famous Studio 54 club in New York City, members of the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones decided to procreate with each other in the basement after consuming tons of alcohol, cocaine and whatever other illegal substances that may have been around.
Imagine that their efforts were somehow successful. The children of this hypothetical union grow up in the midwestern United States listening to their parents' music, as well as other early 80s punk bands like the Ramones and the Clash and more contemporary bands on the radio like Green Day. Inspired and fed up with most of the "pop trash" out there, the kids decide to form their own group. This group turns out to be Chicago's Teenage Frames.
As you might guess from their pedigree, these guys aren't half bad. 1% Faster is the band's second effort, and true to its name and the original intention of the punk movement, the album is loud, fast, and to the point (14 songs in a scant 36:22). With song titles like the opener "Drug Power" and "Dopesville", one might dismiss them thinking, "Oh great, another loud, obnoxious punk band with a pro-drug message and a chip on its shoulder against society. That was cool 20 years ago."
But if you thought that, you would be short-changing them. There's no denying that there's a healthy dose of traditional punk attitude here, but a close listen reveals a band that is trying to shed the conventions and clichés of its punk and glam rock roots, or at least not be tied down too much to any one cliché. This album really grows on you with time. Don't be scared. These guys look and sound pretty normal. No wild-colored mohawks here. It is surprising how catchy tunes like, "I Want To Go Out Tonight,", "Here Comes The City" and "Back To Motor City" are.
The band was impressive enough to draw the attention of famous Chicago indie rock producer Steve Albini, who engineered half the tracks on the record. Mainstream rock fans might recognize Albini's name from the work he did on albums like Nirvana's In Utero and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's Walking Into Clarksdale. The evidence of a certain classic rock sound is clear and distinguishes the band from just straight punk.
Like most punk bands, lead singer Frankie Delmane can't really sing, but he scowls in tune. It is painful the few times he actually tries to hit a note. Delmane sounds a lot like a younger Mick Jagger, which may actually contribute to the band being pidgeon-holed more than anything. I don't understand why a lot of punk-type singers have English accents (like Green Day). Pardon me, Frankie, but aren't you from Chicago?
Although I didn't catch many of the lyrics because of Delmane's style, from what I can gather, his message is decent. He speaks out against teen idols in the 90-second tune "Teenage Letdown" (Take that 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys.) "Glitter Parade" seems to be a protest against glam rock pretension, while "Metropolitan World" slams the big city lifestyle. The chorus of "I'm Goin' Home" can't help but remind one of Eric Cartman's famous remark on South Park, "Screw you guys. I'm going home."
Instrumentally, the band has some nice surprises. Just when you think you have them pegged as a straight-ahead guitar, bass and drums punk rock band, they catch you off guard with the synthesizer effect in "Who Are The Darlings Of The Avant Garde?", the funky bassline of "Dopesville", or percussion effects like the steel drums at the end of "Living It Up."
The Teenage Frames seem like a promising young band, but at $13.99 on CDNow, and with most songs clocking in under three minutes, that's more than one dollar per tune. I feel they owe us at least fifteen more minutes or 5-10 more tunes to make it a better buy. However, if you like it and don't mind the price, buy it. It's bands like these who are going to take rock and roll's original rebellious spirit into the next century and turn the music into something new and all their own.