I can get wild. Sometimes. Ok, let’s face it, any genre boundary-crossing I’m doing still involves a lot hookyness, even if there’s some guitar distortion, yelly vocals, or an amp cranked past 11. Cases in point – today’s featured acts. They’ve got dialed up guitars and discordant singing or some cool stylistic weirdness going for them. And it works!
San Diego’s premier postmodern pop band is TV Girl. With three EPs and four albums released since 2010, this is a group that knows how to get wonderfully weird and stay there. I’m impressed with their ability to pastiche up and over a host of influences, riffing on great hooks (sometimes) borrowed with ease from multiple pop culture sources. Take the oh-so-soul sounding familiarity of “Benny and the Jetts” or the winter skating-rink party ambience of “Baby You Were There.” It’s a winning formula on these early EPs: TV Girl build original pop songs from bits and pieces of old time sixties and seventies sampled hits, like the blast of Todd Rungdren’s “Hello It’s Me” that kicks off and then haunts their own “If You Want It.” You can really hear the Burroughs cut up production style all over the first TV Girls longplayer, The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle released in 2012. Check out the brilliant melding of early 1960s girl singer Linda Scott’s classic “I Told Every Little Star” into the band’s original song, “Misery,” or the threading of the Beatles’ version of Arthur Alexander’s “Anna” throughout “On the Fence.”
By the release of 2014’s French Exit the band’s songwriting really comes on stream with catchy numbers like “Pantyhose,” “Birds Don’t Sing,” and “Angela.” Since then TV Girl have explored more dance and hip hop grooves on 2014’s Who Really Cares and 2018’s Maddie Acid’s Purple Hearts Club Band and some chilly dream pop on Death of a Party Girl from later that same year. But personally I’m really digging the just released 2020 collection of outtakes from French Exit, dubbed The Night in Question. Think The Shortwave Set with a dash of Simple Kid and Tally Hall and you’re in the ballpark.
Boston’s Wakes evokes the holy spirit of rock and roll with spooky sounding guitars and somber world-weary vocals. But embedded in most tunes is that subtle melody-ness I associate with Buddy Holly and Bruce Springsteen. It jumps out in the jaunty guitar lines carrying “Headlines” from Wakes 2014’s album Feral Youth. The overlay of crackling, haunting vocals just seals the deal. Actually, the guitars on this album keep things shifting back and forth from an edgy rock and roll dance party to a car-driving radio-relay-tower passing ambience. From there Wakes dials down the productivity, offering just a covers EP and final mini-album in 2017 before calling a halt to music altogether. The swan song collection of unreleased stuff is gold, ranging from an industrial 1950s vibe to sweet fairground attractions to stark acoustic folk-iness. Entitled Ends, it kicks off with “I Don’t Want to See You Anymore,” an off-kilter bit of Eddie Cochrane-infused psycho-billy brought to life by a furious, driving guitar hook. I also love the stroll-down-the-fairway vibe on “Year After Year,” guided by a mellifluous Del Shannon organ. One can only hope that Wakes’ Tim Oxton’s design/art career goes gangbusters and he can return to a bit of music on the side.
I’m not afraid of a bit of avant garde, genre-blending indie music, as long as a load of hooks are buried somewhere in the mix. That’s what you get with TV Girl and Wakes. Take a walk on their wild side right now.