Monday, January 9, 2012

Three Artifacts, Part. 3: The Album

The last item I received in the mail was less utilitarian and more of a memento; a time capsule (more like a gravestone; memento mori.)

Teenage Cool Kids as a band may be all but dead. The members have all gone on to bigger better different things. However, with the final release of this album comes hope that they will return for good; for a tour; for even one show. One can hope...

I was there on the very first tour. Across the western United States, traveling in a rented van with seven other "dudes", we all became more aware of the world around us. I had never ventured further west than White Sands, New Mexico until our Ford Econoline took us North from Santa Fe and turned left towards Salt Lake City. I think it's only appropriate that the furthest I had ever been from home was one of the more eye opening moments I can recall of my early twenties.

The anarchist co-op house in SLC where we spent the night was like any other stop on the tour; By that I mean it was a dirty, old house littered with bicycle parts, zines, and too many young people to hygienically inhabit one space. We were more than grateful to be offered a few couches and a spot of floor to lay down for the night.

In the morning the snow was beautiful outside but I spent most of breakfast editing video to upload to the internet. This was part of an (frantic) attempt to keep up with the goal I set for myself which was to upload a daily tour montage so that our friends back in Texas and fans of the band could keep up with our travels.

When I went downstairs that morning, I saw a group of old women rooting through a pile of scavenged fruit, vegetables, and bread that the residents had placed on their porch for that purpose. It never brought a bad taste to my mouth. It immediately seemed correct and inherently good that food which would otherwise be wasted could be given to those in need (or just wanting) by means of a group share system. This was my first real-world interaction with DIY, Food Not Bombs, anarchism, or co-ops. This was the moment that I decided to become vegetarian, to be more efficient, and to be more loving of all creatures. It sounds corny but it's true.

The previous days had been mostly bizarre and included: kids on drugs (Amarillo), human snowblowers (Amarillo), girls jumping through urine-filled dixie cup pyramids (Amarillo). [Thanks, Jordan]. Not that there weren't some strange moments in the coming days, but overall the rest of the two week tour was total PMA and nothing short of life-changing.

Beyond the time I have spent with the band and without neglecting my impartial viewpoint, Teenage Cool Kids are one of my, if not my single most, favorite bands. I listen to all of their albums pretty regularly except for the cassette which I listened to recently; i made it through side A and could not bring myself to flip the tape, I was in such an emotional state.

HOWEVER, this album is very different from previous TCK records.

Instead of being recorded here:

(Daniel's bedroom. Photo by Bradley Kerl)

Denton After Sunset was recorded here:

(Sad faces at Nubby's funeral pyre. The band's garage studio is in the background. Photo by Bradley Kerl)

Whereas the self-titled cassette, "Queer Salutations" and "Foreign Lands" were recorded in Daniel's enormous bedroom-turned-recording-studio/warcraft dungeon, "Denton After Sunset" was recorded in a dilapidated, old garage. 715 Panhandle was a large, two-story house that became one of the best music venues Denton, TX had to offer. It was home to party after show after touring bands and even a two-year run of a music fest called PHAT CAMP masterminded by Andrew Savage (I think. I actually missed the first year of PHAT Camp because I was on a road trip with Darcy) and things rarely seemed to calm down.

However, the Westway house where DAS was recorded was far removed from the sense of community that permeated the cinder block walls of 715. Westway was more like an old wooden ship traversing new and increasingly frightening waters. The philosophies of the residents seemed to have changed and without Bradley and Daniel living in the same house as Andrew, the tone became more serious. Whether it was an outbreak of scabies, accusations of backstabbing, or the death of a beloved stray cat, the house seemed to embark upon tragedy where before stood one of the strongest, most loving groups of friends I have ever known.

(Nubby's death. Watercolor painting by Andrew Savage)

There was also the problem with a neighbor who kept making noise complaints during the entire writing/recording process; they eventually (somewhat) sound-proofed the shed with a few bats of fiberglass insulation. It was setbacks like these, the fact that Bradley had moved to Austin with Whitney, and Andrew's divided attention to his new project Fergus and Geronimo that put a great strain on the boys. Shortly after the album was finished, Andrew Savage would move to New York City with friend and F&G bandmate Jason Kelly to focus on their music. I love both bands. In fact, I love every band and every project that my friends involve themselves in, they are some of the most creative people I have encountered. You would like them.

The album was recorded and mixed by my oldest friend and TCK guitarist Daniel Zeigler, and mastered by Josh Bonati of Bonati Mastering NYC. Bonati also worked on Fergus & Geronimo's "Unlearn" as well as, Meneguar's "The In Hour", Blues Control's "Local Flavor", Woods "Songs of Shame", etc. The lyrics, songwriting, instrumentation, recording, mastering, and artwork are all fantastic, and ingrained with deeper meaning. This album should be a part of every twenty-something's rotation until that title is no longer applicable - and beyond.

You can listen to the whole album here. If you're interested in purchasing the album, it is available from Andrew and Chris at their new label, Dull Tools.

As you have probably guessed by now, this is not an album review. I could not possibly separate myself from my personal involvement in the goings-on during the recording of this album and I am obviously not capable of impartial opinion related to this band. This is simply an exercise to document the importance of an artifact that is of great significance to my life story.


  1. Replies
    1. I'll read it to you once a week if you'd like, Darcy.

  2. Well done, Jesse. TCK's music will always be a soundtrack to a certain time of my life, though I was farther removed from it than some of you. I'm glad we all get to have it. I am really enjoying your blog, please keep it up. Miss you and your beautiful lady friend. Hope you guys are happy in the place I think you were always meant to be. :)

    1. Sharon, I'm glad you're reading this. I checked out your blog earlier today and reading one of your posts about a message from Frankie sent me down an emotional spiral. At the end of which, I wrote a long-winded letter to all of my friends about eventually ending up in some sort of commune situation together.

      Don't worry, you'll be getting a letter.