Teen Mortgage are back with their EP Smoked that smacks you upside the head with a blast of sound. Continuing to skate between punk rock, noise rock and garage rock, this new EP drops listeners into their understanding of being American during the pandemic. With a seething froth of sound, the band considers cultural wastelands while packing the punch of pent-up emotions.
Playing on the jargon of skaters, the title of the EP means to fall and slam really hard after a trick. This skater concept has been taken by James Guile (vocals, guitar) and Ed Barakauskas (drums) and turned into the five tracks of the EP. Since the duo met up through a Craigslist ad, they have been making serious waves in the music scene using their full-on and unapologetic sound.
The EP opens with ‘Shangri-La’ and a thrumming guitar line that leads you to a paced melody. The pulse of the guitar from the opening meets a steady vibrating bass that shakes up your insides. Creeping over the music are the vocals that have a smoky dark curl to them. As the chorus hits, the vocals get a blast of punk rock to rise into the air and fill you with energy. Throughout the track, there is this coiled energy that is just waiting to burst on the chorus. It is a great way to open the EP and gives you some insight into what to expect.
The title track ‘Smoked’ takes the energy of the opening track and turns it up to eleven. The melody vibrates through your veins and makes you want to shake and jump to its vibrancy. The vocals have a more melodic flow on this track that makes you want to sing along. In the chorus, there is a softening of the energy but this does not mean that it stops making you want to move. There is something extremely addictive about this track that makes you want to listen to it again and again. it also brings a light contrast to your senses with a darker touch in the low levels of the melody and a brighter feeling in the vocals.
‘Ghost Girl’ has a really interesting opening that is slightly off-kilter like you are looking at the world through a negative filter. The vocals and melody seem to be doing their own things but strangely come together to form the movement of the track. The drums have you bopping to the rhythm while the guitars shake your shoulders and the vocals reach into your brain to pluck at your senses. There is an almost electronic vibe to the track that brings the idea of blue lights flickering on a screen to mind while the vocals are more human and organic. It is a delightful track that you can listen to over and over finding something new to latch onto each time.
The thrumming of the guitar in ‘Can I Live’ has you running down the soundscape. There is a heavier punk vibe to this track that brings a punch of resistance to the music. This is woven around a feeling of aggression at people in your life. There is an interesting focus to the aggression of the track as it feels like it could relate to people constantly talking about themselves or the higher powers of the world. Regardless of where your focus is, you are going to want to stomp and jump to the music as you shout the chorus with the band and unleash all the pent-up frustration you have.
The EP comes to a close with the softer opening of ‘Valley’. The light and tender tones of the guitars in the opening are a wonderful breathe of air after the paced aggression of the last track. There is a touch of Eastern tones to the flow of the music that weaves through your senses with serpentine precision. The vocals continue to lighter feeling while reaching out into the horizon like mist. This is a very different track to the rest of the album but has you really thinking about your own emotions and experiences. As the song progresses, there is a heavier rock pulse that brings the sound of the band back to your ears.
Teen Mortgage brings a froth of sound that covers the spectrum of rock and punk while unleashing frustration in ‘Smoked’. Each track vibrates through your senses with some hitting tenderly and others with aggression. Through all of this, the vocals coil around emotions we have all felt at some point during the pandemic.