It seems that certain continental bands and a few antipodean counterparts are locked in an early-80âs guitar-driven time wrap. This is definitively true of The Teen Appeal. The blueprint for the band has to be The Plimsouls â which is no bad thing. The 12 songs on Act
Are almost all up-tempo rockers with ringing guitars, thumping drums and incessant harmonies. What more could you ask for? Song writer Emmanuel Bault is happy to expose his 60âs inflences and his English lyrics all seem to hang together well â not always the case with writers working in a second language. And he has a great vocal delivery, with a voice that has just the right balance between rough-edged and melodic.
Bucketfull Of Brains
Now here's an album that reflects the days, most notably the late seventies and early eighties, when new wave, power pop and soft rock existed peacefully side by side on the top forty charts. Throughout the course of "Act," you'll hear the influence of folks like Elvis Costello, the Jags, Squeeze and Joe Jackson. But Teen Appeal delivers their material in an independent spirit that they should be proud to claim their own. Another band whose mark is mined on "Act" is the Barracudas, specifically on "Summer Is Coming," which revolves around a neat repertoire of chirpy harmonies and speedy surf punk rhythms. Choppy guitar breaks, attended by skittish melody lines also crop up regularly on the disc. Spiked with the ringing tone of a keyboard, "She's Gone Away" effectively bridges the gap between rickety sixties garage rock and commercial pop aspirations. The title track of the record, "Possessive Love" and the socially conscious "Money" should not be overlooked either. Governed by a spontaneous feel that gives the impression Teen Appeal simply went into the studio, turned on the technology and started playing, "Act" is a down to earth affair. The songs are catchy and performed straight from the heart. A booklet, telling the history of Teen Appeal, is included with the album as well.
Twist And Shake
When I was in primary school our teacher explained the history of European interest in the Australian continent. Common understanding has it that Australia was discovered by Captain Cook, whose discovery led ultimately to the settlement of Australia by an intriguing bunch of pompous English bureaucrats, convicts and a significant female contingent enlisted to stop the fledgling colony descending into a festival anarchy and sodomy (these days the term âsettlementâ has been replaced by the more legally correct âconquestâ, a more than subtle distinction that continues to annoy the fuck out of conservative commentators throughout Australia). In reality the first European visitors to Australia were the Dutch (who had the misfortune to land on the inhospitable north-west coast), with the Portugese (at that time a real player on the world stage, compared to that countryâs dubious contemporary status).
The French were also in the mix as well. In fact, our teacher remarked when describing the story of a meeting in South Australia between French and English ships (at that time embroiled in one of their many fierce battles for European colonial supremacy), had there been a slight change in salient historical events, Australia could have found itself settled â or conquered â by the French, which (amongst other notable consequences â including maybe some better culinary traditions) wouldâve meant French being the lingua franca of the Australian colonial nation. To a nine year old boy, the possibility that weâd be speaking French was a bit tough to comprehend.
So what does this all have to do with The Teen Appeal? Well, the Teen Appeal is French, but every time I listen to the bandâs posthumous release, Act, Iâm convinced Iâm listening to a Dom Mariani tape thatâs been washed up on the shores of the eastern states of Australia. The Teen Appeal â the title is a tribute to The Plimsouls, a major influence â formed in 1990 in the Isere region, centered around the songwriting talents of guitarist and vocalist Emmanuel Bault. The Teen Appealâs first album, âWhen It Comesâ, was released in 1994, with a single a couple of years later. A second album died with another line-up change, and the Teen Appeal ceased to be in late 1997.
âActâ is comprised of songs slated for release on the bandâs second album, plus a bunch of songs from very early on in the Teen Appeal history. With its catchy hooks and frantic drum beats, the title track is almost note perfect power pop, the type of song that makes you want to jump in a car and drive to the beach and bask in the pleasures of the seaside environment. âSomedayâ could easily be renamed âSomelovesâ, such is its acute association with the Australian band of that name (which is not to suggest in any way that plagiarism is involved) and "Happy the Halfwit" is similarly entertaining, sprightly and a recipe for dancing. The presence of keyboards in Possessive Love gives a distinctly garage feel to a riff that has its origin in Keefâs explosion of creative riffs in the late 1960s and 1970s.
I approached âMr Sayerâ with trepidation, with a lingering concern that it might be a celebration of the short English guy with the Afro who turned up periodically on the Australian pop charts in the 1970s (and whoâs since made Australia his permanent home) but my concern was proven to be unfounded. âMr Sayerâ is anything but trite in its Stems-like brilliance (and Easybeats-ish chopping guitar). âSheâs Gone Awayâ is arguably a bit on the melancholic side of the pop equation, but itâs equally a natural break on the album that leads nicely to the fuzzy guitar introduction to âVampirellaâ (itself worthy of comparison with Deniz Tekâs solo stuff as well as Trilobites and Screaming Tribesmen efforts). âGirlâ should be packaged up and sent over to James Baker as a tribute to Jamesâ ubiquitous use of the female gender in early Scientists tunes â the song itself doesnât cut the Dijon mustard quite like Salmon and Bakerâs early efforts but itâs worth a listen nonetheless.
âCeclliaâ and âLost Timeâ are taken from a recording session in 1992, and are (objectively) of lesser quality than the bandâs later material (the liner notes include an amusing explanation of the deficiencies in the bandâs early songs). Yet âMoneyâ (a pumped up Church whoâve traded psychedelics for cold beer) and the bubble-gum pop of âSummer is Comingâ illustrate the spark that underpinned the Teen Appealâs early performances.
The beauty of good power pop is its marriage of melody, pumping rhythms and sunny rockânâroll attitude. The Teen Appeal have â sorry, had â that in spades. Kudos to whoeverâs responsible for getting this album out into public view.