March 02, 2003

The Velvet Teen "The Great Beast February/Comasynthesis"

Ah, "baby steps." These kind of records always provide an interesting insight into bands that are currently being hyped as Next Big Thing (like The Velvet Teen). Do bands simply start out brilliant, or do they develop genius over time? Often, it's impossible to tell if a band is brilliant from their early recordings, but there are those artists who strike gold from their very first release. California's The Velvet Teen are certainly up-and-comers for the Next Big Thing crown. They've got that whole post-emo Britpop sound going on; their new album, produced by Chris Walla, is earning some well-deserved praise--thanks in part to an OH MY GOD THEY ARE SOOOOO LUCKY slot opening for Death Cab For Cutie. This collection gathers up their two out-of-print EP releases, niftily packaged together for your listening pleasure.

The Great Beast February, released in 2001, is a strong single, and it certainly showed that The Velvet Teen were a band worth watching. "Naked Girl" sounds like a lost top-40 "modern rock alternative" radio hit; with a melody that reeks of Smashing Pumpkins' "1979," it's certainly an excellent song that deserves to be a hit. "Counting Backwards" (not the Throwing Muses song) starts off with a cheesy, drum-machine bit, and then borrows MUCH from Jimmy Eat World's then-unreleased hit, "Sweetness." Ironically, both songs borrow heavily from Unrest's wonderful "Make-Out Club," where both Jimmy Eat World and The Velvet Teen are much-loved! (Will the circle be unbroken, indeed!) The final track, "Mother of Love," is a sad, mellow Coldplay-esque number that neither offends or impresses.

Their debut release, Comasynthesis, was a strong but not wholly satisfying record. I reviewed it for my Mundane Sounds print precursor, Lois Is My Queen, and said it was "a brave debut by a group of guys who have some good records in their collection an who are probably much loved by their local college radio station and local indie-kids and nobody else." Who knew? My main complaint was that it was too Radioheadesque for its own good, and I still kind of think that it's too clever to be killer. Though it sounds great (I wish more bands sounded this AWESOME on their first record), it's still kind of bland, middle-of-the-indie-road for my tastes, though it sounds better than when I first heard it, and "Super Me" is pretty rad.

So, are The Velvet Teen really worthy of "next big thing" classification? Well...we'll let you decide that. This collection helps to satisfy those who are already converted, and it really would raise the interest of those who might want to check 'em out--and at a budget price, it's more bang for your buck, and is ultimately quite enjoyable. Having not heard Out Of The Fierce Parade, this little record has certainly made me--and will make you--want to check it out.

--Joseph Kyle

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