Reviewing the Neighbors: The August Teens "A Kiss in Wisconsin"
Post by Aaron Scholz on 3/11/2010 11:35am
Somewhere along the line, the idea of "rock and roll" music evolved (or devolved, depending on who you ask) into the more homogenous "rock" music. This means a lot of music gets lumped together that doesn't necessarily match or really even "rock" in any traditional sense. The latest release from the August Teens, A Kiss in Wisconsin, is very much a "rock and roll" record, relying on traditional song structures and but mixing in modern heaviness and other elements with much success.
Singer/guitarist Dan Hargrove has a lot of woe on his mind, mostly about girls ("Shelia Doesn't Want Me") and girls ("There is No Amber Klein") and more girls ("Lovers Can't be Friends") which really fits the music well. Hargrove's songs are a nice mash of styles, ranging from Buddy Holly ("Mysteries) to Young Fresh Fellows ("Pizza in Your Heart"). With it's double-tracked vocals and prominant organ, "Headstrong Girl" gets my pick as the standout track. The title track is also a great pop moment, with its classic tale of distance making the heart grow fonder. While A Kiss in Wisconsin is far from formulaic, some of the best moments come when the band takes some stylist chances that step outside of the rock and push the pop envelope a little futher.
The August Teens are one of the tightest bands in Madison, featuring bassist Kyle Urban, drummer Josh Labbus (from the Motorz) and lead guitarist Dave Esmond (who helped anchor alt-country favs Mudride). Urban's shiny big-room production quietly adds to his pile of amazing work (The Motorz, The Midwest Beat, The Shabelles, The God Damns among many others) making him one of the best analog guys in Madison. While I hate to use music cliches to describe a band, these guys are the essence of power pop. The songs are hook laden and the playing is tight and when these guys kick it up (as they did at Halloween with fellow rocker Erika Zar as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) they have few peers in Madison. A Kiss in Wisconsin is a great snapshot of a band that really must be heard (and seen) to be believed.
The CD release for A Kiss in Wisconsin is at the High Noon Saloon on Friday, March 12 at 5:30 pm.