Teenagersintokyo - Sacrifice
Don’t be misled by the name, all backstreet neon, bubblegum pink and a little bit too pulp-y for its own good. Teenagersintokyo. No spacing, disregard for grammar, you know the score. Fear not though, because when you’re expecting nothing more than half an hour of the latest féted college brats modelling de rigueur seediness and second rehearsal clumsiness … and then you get this, well …
Introductions. Teenagersintokyo are Samantha Lim, Miska Mandi, Linda Marigliano, Sophie McGinn, Rudy Udovich. In very particular order, they sing (imagine, say, Juanita from Howling Bells with altogether more heat, more muscle and better hair) and play keyboards (Korg-y synth washes), bass (throbbing, simple, perfect), guitar (deliciously heavy on the chorus and delay) and drums (industrious, electronic.) Together since 2006 and having released a clutch of singles, along with almost non-stop gigging, they left their native Australia last year forsaking good food and weather for shitty old London. Here they hooked up with DJ and (more tellingly) Bat for Lashes producer, David Kosten. Where, together, they made what may well be the album of the year. Already. They describe it as “dark pop.” Matt James, ex of this manor, last year referred to them as “future pop stars.” Both spot on. Sacrifice, taking the laudable step of limiting itself to a mere ten songs, sneaks in, pockets the diamonds, hits the gravel at a canter. They don’t put a foot wrong. By the time the opening title track raises eyebrows and expectations, slinking in like a cat back from a night on the rooftops, all bets are off. Teenagersintokyo are in thrall to the 80s (whatever the f*** they were) but just how they realise their glittery dreams, that’s what takes the breath.
They couch a (respectful, not ironic) penchant for 80s synth pop within an indie band framework and they do it with taste and savvy. That they know what they like is obvious. That they deliver it so very expertly is worthy of our love. Making the whole enterprise sound momentous and significant is nothing short of miraculous. Indie pop with a dance twist? Right – ‘cos we’ve not seen that before. Teenagersintokyo, maybe due to their uncommon focus, their deadly austerity, wield a pop sensibility that belies their age (early 20s.) They bring gravity to what could so easily have been flippant. No, not for them the lazier confines of youthful protest or (worse) party antics. ‘Sacrifice’ is shot through with a seam of melancholy, heavy on the reflection. Transposing this onto such shiny materials brings to mind again Neil Tennant's “tragic disco.” This is an album dressed for the club, make no mistake. But it’s just as happy to hang around the bedsit, should you just, you know, want to talk.
Songs snort at the harshest inspection, every one a killer. ‘New Day’ peddles ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’ era Duran Duran and guitarist Sophie McGinn shows off her best John Taylor chops. ‘Long Walk Home’ is staggering, borrowing from The Cure (that clipped, heavily chorused guitar and the extravagant synth washes) to dizzying effect and you wonder why no-one has thought to purloin this effectively of late. (There is something deliciously icy about Teenagersintokyo, an almost haughty disregard for anyone who might be listening in.) On ‘Isabella’, all staccato riffing and predatory purr, different colours, different shades come into focus and you start to feast on The Good Bits – a shift in tempo here, a startling bass riff here, a middle eight with thrilling ADHD. Climaxing in a wig out worthy of early New Order, but not before letting guitar and keyboards exit while bass and drums come to a shuddering halt, ‘Isabella’ is magnificent. Its “I need you tonight” hook does yearning at industrial levels and is very nearly the best (Australian) pop song ever to feature those four words in its chorus.
Quality levels don’t dip. On ‘End it Tonight’, Samantha swaps husky for the next octave up and ends up a dead ringer for Laura-Mary from Blood Red Shoes. “I lose myself every time I lose myself to you …” A nod to The Strokes’ ‘Reptilia’ seals the deal. ‘As We Were’ is prime cyber balladry. ‘Talk to the Fire’ heads for the dance floor refreshed and invigorated. Warning: spiked shapes being thrown. ‘Robocat’ is all repetition and stroboscopic drone: “They sold my soul, they sold my soul, they sold my soul …” intones Samantha. This is where Sacrifice drops the kitten act; this is the track best avoided when putting a friend into the “Sit down! You really must hear this!” position.
No, if you’re gracious enough to want to turn a friend onto this exhilarating record, want to help these future pop stars to avoid the unthinkable, undignified prospect of having to work away like normal pop groups at this music business malarkey, then play them the closing ‘3046’. Clocking in at the best part of seven minutes it sends the mercury skyward. “Took a long time to get the earth to move / It took the longest time / I lie in wait for you …” This is desire, unfettered and true. ‘3046’ (an Australian postcode?) builds to a coda thrillingly drawn out and pulsing like the air on a desert road. It closes this remarkable debut in elegiac, enervating fashion. For a band this young to play so fast and loose with the components of pop, particularly those so prone to mis-use, is commendable for sure. To ignore those warning signs and make good on a raw talent that verges on the miraculous, well …what can you say? Teenagersintokyo’s dark pop is, despite surface appearances, so precious it gleams. It shines like it does.