Rock and roll has always been a young man’s game but just how young? When the Beatles hit it big in 1963 John, Paul, George and Ringo were 23, 21, 20 and 23 respectively. This week’s duo first made the live music scene when they were barely in their teens. Ok, novelty aside, the real test is the music and these two prove you don’t need quite so many trips around the sun to produce some killer poprock.
Matt Jaffe picked up the guitar at ten and hit his first open mike at 11. At 14 the Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison offered to record some demos with him. His first publicly available material starts to emerge when he is 16, with his first EP out while he is still 19. His band are the Distractions, a play on one of his favourite influences, Elvis Costello and his Attractions. I’m pretty sure Jaffe’s electric guitar is the same as EC’s: a Fender Jazz Master. The not-so-raw talent is obvious from the earliest recordings like “No Place to Go” and “Armistice Day” and on unreleased recordings like “Plastic Tears.” But his first official EP, Blast Off, seals the deal with its effortless mix of rootsy rock and roll like “Write a Song About Me” and “Blast Off” as well as more poprock numbers like “Holding On” and “Stoned on Easter.” “Holding On” particularly has all the right hooky moves, sounding like a slightly off-kilter Marshall Crenshaw single. In 2016 he released another strong single with “Overboard” and followed that this year with his first long player, California’s Burning, which tipped things back toward his more rootsy roots. Check out the swinging “Love is Just a Drug.”
Wunderkind number two seems even more ambitious. 16 year old Max Bouratoglou has just released a new album, the very polished sounding Idle Intuition, produced by Ken Stringfellow of the Posies. But hey, it’s his third album. Max recorded his first record, Mid-Teen Crisis, when he was just 14 in the summer between the 8th and 9th grade. The songs on this first record all start sounding a bit raw but when they kick into the chorus – bang – it’s there, something smooth and hooky. “How to Say” does this with great vocal harmonies in the chorus and some really cool 1960s organ and electric guitar. Clearly, somebody has been raiding the grandparents’ record collection! A year later he released Average Euphonies which upped the production values and the songwriting sophistication on tracks like “Things Have Changed” and “Diamond Pearl,” the latter channeling the 1960s poprock sound of the Monkees and a surprising (and very cool) trumpet solo. On the new album, I’m partial to “Time Flies” and the hypnotic “Drum,” with its super rumbly electric guitar.
How to SayTime FliesDrum
I know what you’re thinking: these guys are young, I’ve got lots of time to check them out. Well just remember what happened to those Buddy Holly fans on the March dates of the Winter Dance Party. Visit Matt Jaffe and Max Bouratoglou online, buy their records, go to their concerts.