Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
A story on Showtime's television version of Ira Glass' "This American Life" National Public Radio program features the host traveling to a high school to interview kids on the day that they're having their class photos taken on the school's auditorium stage. They pull a couple dozen kids aside before and after the snapping of the lasting look that these kids - joined by age and location - will have of one another. Most of the kids Glass talks to claim that they will remember all of the things they're experiencing and going through in their high school years for the rest of their lives - the terrible break-ups with their "first loves" and all of the boys or girls they have crushes on. All of the traumatic and elation-filled moments will be engrained long into the future. Two girls, best friends with an obnoxious secret handshake and a handwritten song about Harry Potter, have code numbers for all of the boys they like and they insist that they'll never forget boy No. 225. Then, the girl that everyone knows, who's energetic and massively likeable, not to mention active and outgoing, gets mic-ed and she doesn't have to think long before admitting that she'll probably not remember any of it - that these times she's in, the ones that everyone around her is deeming so significant, the time that her peers would think she's maxing out on will vanish away completely before she even knows it. Her teenage years will be forgotten and the others, who refused to admit it, will experience the same thing. The times will be gone, never to be thought about again. These could be the petty things - the tooling around the local park or the hamburger stand or the idiotic school dances - but there is more to those young years that stays imprinted a bit more and New York band the Teenage Prayers gets to the center of them with its roadhouse rock and roll that smells and sounds like sloppy sex one minute, the foreplay the next and the jocular recollection of it all days, weeks and months later. It has the general feeling of the kinds of innocent sins - the lusts of the flesh for teenage boys, the need for the voodoo that girls, pretty and average, cast on them - all over its songs. These are the guilty dreams and prayers of young men, whose minds are incapable of not analyzing legs and ankles and nipping. It's all of desperate importance and it forms in these almost men their appreciation for beauty, for love and for whatever can be grown from those experiences. It all starts in high school and the rest of life is an extension of what happened then, how they were affected. Tim Adams, the band's lead singer, would be and is like the girls who believe that they'll always remember No. 225. Why wouldn't he? He inflects his voice with some of the soul of a Nathan Willett and a Jim James when he sings about sex as well as escape and being lost in the cluster, and his bandmates help to create a sound that is rambunctious in its meaning and energy, giving off sparks and the kind of cleansing, sweaty movement that all good days should have at least a little bit of or they've been wasted. The Teenage Prayers makes sure that theirs - the prayers and all of the things that actually did happen - weren't in vain.