There’s a garage-pop movement afoot in Wisconsin and Trent Fox & the Tenants are just one of the torchbearers. Their five song debut EP, Mess Around, is a quick burst: part ass-shaking party music, part beer-pounding sleaze. The band plays a familiar style with enough attitude to pull it off without making the usual namedropping comparisons.
The single is under 15 minutes long, delivering a familiar, yet new sound most easily summed up as garage-pop with a touch of Detroit grit. The title track opens with a prominent bassline and some building snare taps that culminate into a big chorus. The song mixes snotty vocals with some well-harmonized backing “yeah yeah yeahs” that give a unifying effect, somewhat countering the frontman, ego-driven style of his snotty delivery. The structure tends to highlight each musician individually, and climaxes by pulling in the whole group for a big payoff. It’s followed by a more straight-up peppy garage pop song in “Outta My Mind”—a song too catchy for its own good considering the lewd refrain of “She can’t get me off ‘cause I can’t get you out of my mind.” “Jokes!” follows this up with a similar semi-serious tone, dropping content about ugliness and overweight mothers while mixing a personalized “you” into the lyrics to keep it fresh. The music is driving and upbeat, with firmly structured rhythm and a lot of choral harmonies, fitting of the genre. The music is fairly samey, but well it’s well suited to the short play format.
While the record starts out strongly, it’s the B-side that really defines the record. Following the first three songs, which mix garage singalongs with dirty lyricism and a touch of swagger, the singer ups the ante by adding more emotion to his delivery, effectively combining the arrogant swagger with a relatable good guy, all layered into the hooky bass and the peppy guitar and drum. While the r’n’r sounds dirty and up-to-no-good, it simultaneously reflects real emotional consternation and reflection. By the time of the doo-wop fused “Sounds Fine to Me,” it’s hard not to sing along to his suffering, even if the lyrical coping comes in the form of a Mario 3 reference.
7.5 / 10
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