by Nick McGuire (@nickemcguire)
Book jacket covers usually hold the most innocuous praise in the world. The New York Times always says something like, “brilliant, thrilling… a masterpiece.” And yet when I think Over Everything, it deserves a blurb like “frenetic and unhinged yet masterfully controlled… a masterpiece.” But unlike most works that are over-praised, it fucking is.
For five years, SUPERTEEN has been putting out consistently impressive records, each time better than the one before it. For this Salem, MA five-piece, if you listened only to “On Dogs” you would find them remarkable. Maybe not a distillation of multiple genres like jangly art pop and hardcore, but remarkable. “On Dogs,” starts off weird, with a repeating riff and a quivering voice that talks as if through a turntable. But it’s a fun, grungy hardcore song with lyrics like “I want to walk around with you / around with you.” Chris Faria has some of the most consistent drumming chops, with wild rhythms and some of the most opportune symbol hits. And the song fits well within the genre with acts like Sports, Krill (RIP), Bad History Month. Not a bad thing, of course. It’s a pretty start.
Enter “Leaks,” the second song whose beginning of echoed feedback and creepy, uneven whistling takes a turn. Well, remember Faria? Along with Patrick Dunning’s swift bass line, he comes back, pushing this complex beat underneath Meryl Schultz’s atmospheric vocals. Behind her are back up vocals that belong more with Gregorian monks than a hardcore band. It’s tight, controlled, yet slowly unraveling. The chorus comes in. Schultz and Sam Robinson sing in dissonant harmony “Can you think of something new / tell me something I don’t know.” But the best is when Faria swings it, opening the whole song. It’s loose. It has energy and desperation and you need to scream with them.
There are brilliant moments throughout this album. Schultz and Robinson harmonizing is eye-opening. It’s creepy, distorted, and like two voices saying the same thing but with clashing feelings. “The Chain Waltz” shows off Dunning’s remarkably consistent bass work (check out “Sweet Tooth, pt.2” for the best). Technically it is a waltz in 3/4 time, but don’t expect a Jane Austen courtly dance scene. It’s angry as Robinson sing-yells and backup vocals follow him, until he is screaming. And because SUPERTEEN’s best quality is dissimilar poles surprisingly fitting, “The Chain Waltz” becomes something else entirely. Singing over clean arpeggios, Robinson discusses a dream: “I’ve been thinking an endless of therapists stretching back so far you reach the time of Adam and Eve.” It’s depressing and funny. With the female “Ooh’s” sung behind him, it’s a poppy contrast to what came before. How can you not be locked into it?
So often in music we want new. Regardless of genre, it’s exciting when a group you’ve loved does something new like adding a new genre to the mix. Then there are those who want “their” bands to stay the same. It’s a toss up. How do you navigate changing and not changing? Obviously you can’t make everyone happy, that’s absurd. Yet here is SUPERTEEN, who since their inception has grown, improved and changed while staying SUPERTEEN. How can this group keep getting better and better, and yet always change? Parts of this album seem so distant, so separate, so inconceivably not a part of what you assume this album should be, and yet maybe the Everything in the title is just that. SUPERTEEN has managed to do almost everything that they’re over it. Bring on the next challenge. I look forward to it.