The electro-punk trio's debut is as deliriously creative as it is insufferably obnoxious.
Chris Lo 2011-11-02
London-based electro-punk trio Teeth have been cartwheeling manically around the noise-pop fringes for a couple of years now, engaging in such digital mischief as hacking Lady Gaga's Twitter account while sporadically unleashing their hyperactive brand of blunt-force noise on to the internet. Now that they’ve released a full-length debut (albeit one stretching to just over half-an-hour long), is there any substance behind the shenanigans?
Well, yes and no. Whatever is an album that offers little in the way of depth, diversity or nuance – instead, it's a sonic assault, its hard drives stuffed with stomping beats, schizophrenic melodies and screeching synths ripped straight out of Sleigh Bells' apocalyptic cheer book. Vocalist Veronica So's lyrics dart distractedly from twitchy posturing ("Y'all think we care / But we don't") to vague reflection ("I just wanna stay in bed / Cos I feel so misled") in a way that suggests her words are chosen for style over meaning. The album's relentless pace, one ear-bleeding squall leading into another, causes it to really drag on its weaker tracks (Pill Program, Dead Boys). Listeners unmoved by Teeth's one-note barrage will likely see Whatever as a bit of an ordeal, something to be suffered through rather than enjoyed.
But is it fair to criticise a band for failing to meet criteria that it clearly didn't give a toss about in the first place? Probably not. After all, who set the rule that all good albums must be timeless, balanced and carefully considered? Yes, the album is obnoxious and ephemeral, but it also showcases a delirious creativity. Tracks like Care Bear and Flowers share an exhilarating tendency to shift and warp mid-song, melodies synching up gloriously before corroding into atonality once more. Yes, the album suffers from attention deficit disorder and rarely strays from its histrionic tone, but at 31 minutes it's the perfect length for the chaotic head-rush it's so clearly striving for. There's a real vibrancy here, a real commitment to creating as much noise and insufferable fun as possible; imagine if Crystal Castles were more interested in the beach than the local graveyard and you're halfway there.
By the time final track Street Jams ends, with a euphoric torrent of distorted synth that would bring a sugary tear to Dan Deacon's eye, you'll either be fuming with exasperation or lying happily on your living room floor, slick with rave-sweat. One thing is almost guaranteed: you won't be bored. Exhausted maybe, but not bored.