by Jackson Abatemarco
The message of “Return to Innocence, you Scumbag” can mean so much given the context of the past fifteen years that the nineties babies have matured to adulthood in that it is almost immediately overwhelming to consider. In the year 2016 we are watching the slow but sure dismantling of industrial-era constructs built within the framework of people’s preconceived notions and biases in the post-industrial age. Concepts like Gender have been entirely re-evaluated in a movement lead by people willing to accept their vulnerabilities as human beings, and to see those as strengths and not weaknesses. It makes so much sense that in the framework of this context an album as deconstructionist and self evaluating as the Massachusetts indie-post punk quintet SUPERTEEN’s fifth release Isn’t a Person could weave such an immaculately pure journey, both forward and in reverse at the same time, crying “It’s the great migration, free association” as its opening statement.
The entire album flows fluidly and lucidly, transitioning smoothly from heavier moments of driving washed out post-punk to bright and jangly indie folk. The guitar and bass tones are situated expertly throughout the album to have just the right amount of ambiguity and just the right amount of lucid expression. Vocalists Meryl Schultz and Samuel Robinson trade-off perfectly simple and yet profound lyrics beautifully in a back and forth interplay that conceptually follows the album and its journey of a three hundred and sixty degree revolution from everything to nothing and back again. Take the opening track “Return to Innocence” in which Robinson cries a chant “return to innocence, serenity abandonment” reminiscent of an Embrace/Fugazi era Ian MacKaye over Schultz’s cutting cries of “Your blindness is your vision, your vision makes you blind” creating a perfect explanation for the human condition. This is followed by the title track of the album; a warm sedated song that brings one back to the most nostalgic memories of childhood, coupled with a matronly voice talking sampled throughout the song. Each note is warm and lucid, the flute like synth keeping a youthful vibrancy to it, with the chords perfectly supporting each inkling of melody up until the final note.
The brilliant use of samples is a continual motif throughout the record, both with the bird noises on “Oh Baby”’s opening and the perfectly placed “are we really gonna start meme’ing right now” that comes right before a roar of “Call me a racist! Call me a sexist! Just to let you know, you’re screaming at the void, call a cop to shut me up, watch me go to grab his gun,” also reminiscent of Embrace era MacKaye, only infused with the kind of nihilism and contempt that can only come from a member of the “meme-generation”, or dare I say, the memeration™? Ultimately the song acts as another deconstruction, both lyrically and musically. Schultz’s float perfectly throughout the track accompanied by what builds into a beautiful horn section and ultimately breaks down into one groove. This of course goes directly into a song so fun it’s titled with a picture made out of letters of a man shrugging called "¯\_(ツ)_/¯".
Which brings us to a point where we are so truly lost within the silvery folds of this record that we need a GPS to help us find our way out, provided ever so conveniently by a perfectly place sample of a GPS, explaining the directions you need to take to get back to your original state of emptiness. And when we do find our way it brings us straight to the second to last song “Bye, Bye”; a warm , fuzzy and vaguely psychedelic track, that leads to a strong infusion of lead distorted lead guitar and a temporary hardcore two step beat. Over the course of these perfectly executed transitions the undercurrents of the track builds into a climactic ending with choir like vocals leading into a fuzzed out washed out guitar that reads like straight indie rock. Finally the album closes with “You Scumbag”, a bass and drum driven tune accented by perfectly clear and droning lead guitar melody, along with the build up and simmer of random noise including a theremin, a series of samples of people talking and free form saxophone playing amongst other things. All in all, this beautifully moving and profound journey, going both forward and reverse in the same time, leaves you right where you started as if you had never moved a single centimeter, making you question the reality of any of it now that you’re all that’s left, you scumbag.