Who needs functioning eardrums anyway? A Secret Policeman’s Ball play post-punk indie music with new wave undertones, and there is only one volume their music should be played at: LOUD. The Tennessee band have a penchant for mixing pop-filled melodies with aggressive guitars and vocals that frequently turn into screams; what initially starts off as a song with sweet vocals transforms into a wave of angst with some impressive vocal distortion.
Tennessee doesn't naturally conjure up images of shrieking post-punk bands, or of a massive alternative music scene in general, even though the state's capital city is nicknamed Music City. While recognised as the home of several country music greats, the music scene is much broader than might initially be assumed. When someone mentions music from Tennessee they’re unlikely to think of A Secret Policeman’s Ball, which makes them all the more interesting.
“I Am Not A Scientician” is a spectacular onslaught of chugging guitars, increasingly sweet-but-bitter vocals with glowing synths underpinning the verses. The vocals get more vicious as the song goes on, until the last chorus descends into growls with crashing cymbals for company. It’s fervent and angry but the mashing together of pop sensibilities with a harsher sound really works.
Elsewhere “They Already Banged” is a danceable, summery track that rivals Two Door Cinema Club’s effervescent indie-pop, and on “Stairway to Upstairs” lead singer Nikki Oliff shares vocals with guitarist Greg Harp with positive results; the contrast between their vocals adds to the song while Harp’s vocals mix with the guitar riffs during the chorus to a backdrop of synths that sound like distorted sirens. A number of the songs on this album contain an urgency that is difficult to ignore, it’s attention-grabbing but not alienating.
Closer “Sometimes My Arms Bend Back” first appeared on their debut EP of the same name, and neatly closes the album. It incorporates all of the aforementioned genre fusions that the band do so well, with an instantly catchy chorus. Oliff sings “They could’ve put you in our box” with a refrain of “Let it die” from Harp before the screams reappear with a ferocity that’s hard to miss.
Teenage Crimewave manages to mix aggression and anger with upbeat, sweet melodies all at the same time. It seems like the sort of combination that on paper shouldn't work, but in practice it does. Plus, eardrums are overrated anyway.
7.5 / 10
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