Brothers Peter and Jeff van Helvoort, the only constant members in Toronto’s Teenage Kicks, have taken up arms on the good-guy side of one of the few important wars worth fighting: the one against the death of honest rock ‘n’ roll. And while their preceding releases held fast their commitment to the cause, their debut full-length, Spoils of Youth, finds them on the front line, hurtling fearlessly toward whatever destiny decides their future, or end, will be.
They’ve got all the weapons they need – the stomp-yr-feet spastic tambourine chorus of “Curse Words,” the sing-along bombast on “Digging Up Old Bones,” the slow-burn riff-rock heaviness of “Time Is Not a River,” and the album’s one moment it allows a sonic breather, “Stone and Undulation,” a paean to the down-and-outers working on getting wasted that declares bluntly, “gonna be someone tonight/gonna get messed up and die.” Peter van Helvoort’s massively gut-punching vocals have the ability to really drive home a rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light attitude, but here, at the most vulnerable moment on the album, show they’re capable of the sort of nuance that can make or break a line.
I’d be remiss not to mention this record was re-recorded after a first effort yielded unsatisfactory results. It took twice the work, twice the sweat, twice the blood to release Spoils of Youth properly, the way Teenage Kicks wanted it to be heard. That dedication to rock n roll is apparent in the heart of these songs, and one can only hope that no matter how many blows fate delivers the brothers van Helvoort – losing band members, money problems, sonic disagreements, etc. – they keep getting up again, yelling about it, and reminding us why that’s important. (Rezolute Music, teenagekicksteenagekicks.bandcamp.com) Matt Williams