A Fairly Unfiltered Reaction to Beach House’s Teen Dream

First off: it’s 2010, and that means wedding planning is gonna fuck with my posting schedule a bit. So be it. For some reason, people are still dropping by, even when I haven’t posted in a while. Thanks.

Anyway, I wanna talk to you about the new Beach House record, Teen Dream. The Pitchfork review of this album uses phrases like “shadowy dream-pop”, “dark and blurry resonance,” and “Mazzy Star” in the first paragraph alone. After reading the Pitchfork (or P4K, as those pretentious twats abbreviate it. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve abused a parenthesis, so I’m just gonna vent here for a minute. I don’t know who is to blame for changing “you’re” into “Ur”, “your” into “yr” or thinking abbreviations like P4K are acceptable, but I want them found and I want them killed. Our country is already hemorrhaging intelligence at a horrifying rate [check this shit out if you don’t believe me. Kirk Cameron actually talks about convincing people God exists by bypassing the intellect. This is probably the same way you convince people to eat shit.] and this needless pruning of already short words is not helping things at all. I don’t know if people who do it think it’s cute or convenient or what, but knock it the fuck off. If you’re texting a message to somebody and you can’t afford an extra three letters, just fucking call them. Whew. That’s some good parenthetical abuse right there) review, I was all set to hate Teen Dream. It’s called Teen Dream, for fuck’s sake.

I sought this album out to despise it. Not just because I’m an asshole (but I’ll cop to that), but because I learned a little lesson a year or so ago about a really shitty “band” from San Diego called Wavves. Pitchfork ejaculated a spoogey river of praise onto Wavves’ album, Wavvves (I still refuse to see what they did there), and, based on their review, I decided to check that album out. And it was dog shit. No. Dog shit still sounds better to me than Wavves. Now, to be fair, there are bands that I like that get pretty good marks from the Pitchforkers, but there are certain Pitchfork reviews, like the one for Beach House’s latest, that signal to me that this is overblown praise for a complete turd of a band. The word “droning” shows up in the Pitchfork review for Teen Dream and that’s a big red flag. The whole review conjures up analogy after analogy to light and darkness – also a huge red flag. The review also praises the use of a cheap drum machine, which is not encouraging. And the review contains this sentence: “Hearing her voice in such a spare setting reinforces just how rich, earthy, and, dare I say it, soulful it really is.” Yes, Pitchfork Managing Editor Mark Richardson, you dare say it. So just fucking say it, you giant pussy. If something is soulful, you can say it’s soulful. Saying Jeff Buckley is soulful only makes sense. Saying Wavves is soulful means you probably have a brain tumor.

But enough (at last!) about everything to do (even tangentially – it’s great to be back here, making parentheses my bitch) with Teen Dream but the music. Because this album is mostly fucking gorgeous. Victoria Legrand is a soulful (seriously, Mark Richardson, why is there a problem with saying that?) vocalist, her voice fits the instrumentation like a glove and, if that’s a cheap drum machine they’re using, good on them. Sounds great to my ears. Given how much I expected to loathe Teen Dream, I have to say it strikes me as nothing short of stunning. I’m listening to it right now on headphones and I am not infrequently getting chills.

So I think I’ve learned something here today. No, I haven’t learned to give Pitchfork the benefit of the doubt – I’m still right about them 9 times out of 10 (although, to be fair, they point me to a lot of good music. I read their site, wading through their mostly pretentious prose [cue someone saying this about me in 5, 4, and so on] to decide whether or not I will like the band they are reviewing) and they still give high praise to stuff a brain-damaged monkey could do with his ballsack, a laptop, and a MIDI-ready Stratocaster that so far from in tune that you have to measure the distance in megaparsecs. What I’ve learned is that I like to be surprised. The one time out of ten that I’m wrong about something Pitchfork likes is a moment of serenity for me. In this fucked up world, the fact that even Pitchfork and I can agree on something gives me a shred of hope (an admittedly small one) for humanity.

There’s another lesson here, one that is very important to remember, especially when Pitchfork or Bollocks! is bagging on something near and dear to your heart (although, come on, that never happens here): the music is what matters. It doesn’t matter what I think of an album if it moves you and it doesn’t matter that Pitchfork was blind to the beauty of My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges because I sure as fuck understood that album for the hulking slab of awesome that it was. I’m telling you what I think of an album in a given moment – in this moment, I really dig this Beach House album. I’m not getting paid for it (the Pitchfork guys are, but I don’t begrudge them that. They’ve achieved the American Dream: getting paid to masturbate) and I am comfortable with my complete lack of influence (which is what it is, at least until 400 motherfuckers come here to vehemently agree with me about something). There’s some reason you read music reviews and that’s for you to sort out. I write music reviews because, well, I love music and I don’t sleep much.

But seriously, Pitchfork was – dare I say it? – correct about Teen Dream. And while I am pretty happy when we agree on stuff, I’m still perplexed at how much I hate how they praise albums. They take their shit waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more seriously than I take mine. Of course, “criticism” is their job and what I do here is more Free-Floating Hostility, to borrow a phrase from George Carlin (if I’m funny, ever, it’s because of George Carlin or Kurt Vonnegut. Either by lessons learned or jokes blatantly stolen). You can decide which you prefer and adjust your reading habits accordingly. But do yourself a favor and at least listen to Teen Dream. I’ve listened to it like four times while writing this (I took a lengthy detour on the Way of the Master website, where I took their quiz to see if I’m a good person. You can guess, by their criteria anyway, how that went) and it is still fucking gorgeous.

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2 thoughts on “A Fairly Unfiltered Reaction to Beach House’s Teen Dream

  1. Sir, you have brought the humor, and I–as an unrepentant dash abuser to rival your parenthetical beastmastery; imagine the two of us in tandem devouring plots of the English language across a barren hostile landscape of sub and meta-text, battering abusers of the land with their bullshit abbreviations rent on portable devices with the very cannon of our syntax and literacy, crushing those who stand before us with an audacity of language so stupidly engorged with excess that even grammar nazis are pulled down in its wake: we become the very demon that we persecute, thoroughly thrashing the language in excess, ultimately in the same quality as those who contract it by diminishment, causing meaning to ultimately fail, yet only are we saved by the knowledge that our own empirical superiority makes us victors over the shorteners, “occams razor my ass!”–approve.

  2. Thanks for the review and blog. A mate suggested I follow Bollocks! A month or two ago, and I’ve been enjoying the ride.

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