June 2, 2009 § 5 Comments
by Anthony Pilgrim
There’s a fine line between the devil and me.
Teen Heat- Gunslinger Kids
Rock ‘n roll music is not for the cool. It is not for the organized, the suave, the WASPs, or the ironic. Rock ‘n roll is a reject game, first played by the misfits who weren’t allowed to use the front door in polite company, and followed up by WWII bomb shelter Brit brats. From there, it was handed off and fortified by space-case art rockers, glue-sniffing anarchists, mutant heavy-metal hitters, and the forever-27 crowd. So, when two boys wielding nothing more than a solid state amp, a guitar, and a three-piece drum set take the stage with “Born Too Kill” scribbled across their foreheads, screaming about disenchanted teenage lives and the need to see their own blood on the stage to a crowd of five people it quickly becomes clear that THESE are the rightful heirs to the throne.
Teen Heat is made up of madman maestro guitarist John Spies and rocksteady drummer Tor Ekstorm. The two are greens to the music scene, having only one show under their belts following three months in the wood shed. While they haven’t quite found their sea legs, they can be complimented for remaining true to their goal of ensuring that you will never want to bring your mother to a show. The two are honest-injun, penny-in-an-electric-socket rock ‘n roll cannibals. They make more noise than most five-piece bands, and do it with no pedals, stacks, or tuners. Their music is simple and brutal generation-X grown, chord dragging punk rock backed with steady hard beats. The vocals are nothing short of bi-polar “fuck you” mutterings with drunk-angry choruses and left-at-home-for-prom/locked-out-the-medicine-cabinet frustration lyrics ripping out of songs such as “Gunslinger Kids” and “Kicked Out of Everywhere” where Spies mutters “Hands are tied to a chair/kicked out of everywhere”.
One thing truly separates Teen Heat from most other bands in the scene: the extreme difference from the music that they post online and their live sonic experience. Online, Teen Heat songs are GarageBand recorded art rock sessions. The static might be accidental, or it might have cost them a grand to put it in, you can’t really tell. But the feel is dreary and disenchanted like any good one-mic recording, and the boys seem to have a new track up every other day as a testament to their dedication. The flipside to that is the duos’ live show. Since they only have one to speak of, the run down isn’t too hard to grasp. There’s just the two of them, dressed down in the Pixies’ legacy of how a Massachusetts state college band should look. The crowd has already seen who they wanted and moved outside to smoke, leaving some hip stragglers, a few cousins, and that one guy who hasn’t moved from the corner since the show started. As the two start playing, the vibe is set right away. The two aren’t down that no one stayed to see their rock band, they’re going to show the three people in the room that a brutal show is a thing of vibe and sonics and has nothing to do with attendance. John Spies plays his five chords and while Tor keeps the need be beat. Near the end of the show John Spies breaks into a version of The Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man” with the chorus of “Well, then what can a poor boy do, Except to sing for a rock n roll band, cause in sleepy London town, There’s no place for a street fighting man”, which reads more true for the two now than for The Stones in their current corpse-like state. The end of the end comes when Spies is on the floor with the audience thrashing at what may be a solo or a seizure while Tor, in the tradition of the late great Moon the Loon, kicks down the small set in all the directions it can go. The stage looks like Dresden and it only took the two of them twenty minutes to pull it off.
Teen Heat is for kids who know why it was important that Bill Halley and the Comets caused riots in Germany, why Iggy Pop would cut himself with glass if the audience seemed bored, and why Chuck Berry records where burned by God fearing members of the parents coalition and the KKK. It’s because rock and roll is what you do when you’re not well adjusted, and, baring any lobotomies or finding Jesus, I believe that these two dorm room sociopaths could scare the stagnation off of the local scene and remind us all why it’s good to have some blood on your guitar.