Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Grant Johnson at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
Earlier today, right outside the church that my wife's family has been attending their whole lives, I spotted a scribbled bit of graffiti on the retaining wall just in front of the priest's home. There, just a few feet in front of his front door, for everyone to see, it says, "Hell Awaits Thee." It's graffiti that some funny guy with a spray can made and it's easily sloughed off. Who cares? It's just there, but it's ironical or it's supposed to mean something - the message and the location. It's supposed to give you an impression of misgivings, of suspicions, of suspected hypocritical behavior - one could guess. What I prefer to think the message is with that phrase is more universal. It takes us into the thinking that we can do about what we really know about what's at the center of most people. We'd like to think that we know what makes everyone tick and what they're all about, but their entire soul could look like it's been painted in tar, like it's been trashed, like it's warmed by cackles and sinister issues. We see it every day in the news, that next-door neighbor who no one paid any mind to having turned out to be one of the worst human beings on record, right under their noses. It was the dude that they ate BBQ with, the guy who loved his dog and always had a kind word for something, who turned out to be a sick and perverted piece of shit.
TEEN, led by former Here We Go Magic keyboardist Teeny Lieberson, doesn't write songs about the worst people in the world - far from it. What the Brooklyn band's songs seem to do, however, is they seem to take us into some back room where the dark stuff is kept. These are the moods and memories that have been repressed as much as possible and they hang there in the back pages. They aren't going to get someone to an awaiting hell, but they're a bit like reminders that there's a bunch of junk about everyone that no one knows about. Lieberson sings on "Circus," "I've been broken all my years/You can't change that." It's an admission that comes with no required response. Who knows what's being done about those broken pieces. If they're waiting for glue or a retrieval of one or two still missing pieces, the rest of those broken parts could go bad. There's no sure destination where any of that could lead.