Review: Teen Suicide—’Bonus EP’

Posted: by The Editor


Earlier this year, Teen Suicide released their magnificently flummoxing, 26-song comeback (and farewell?) album It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot. The incredibly ambitious lo-fi opus stretched across scruffy post-punk, serene folk, power-pop, and drug-induced electronica with a seemingly careless approach to cohesion. Now, just over half a year later, the band has officially unleashed Bonus EP, which was originally an exclusive cassette limited to those who pre-ordered Celebration on vinyl. These six songs were recorded shortly after the Celebration sessions, and most of them sound like they would fit snugly on that record.

However, despite songwriter Sam Ray—who’s also released gobs of music under the name Ricky Eat Acid and fronted the band Julia Brown—stating in an interview with The Fader that this is “the best goddamn thing [he’s] ever released,” the majority of these songs lack the memorability and distinctiveness of Celebration.

Opener “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is stuffed with layers of pitch-shifted vocals and dreamy synths that’re supported by a dub-like backbeat, but the track doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. The other bookend, “Beneath the Cross (demo),” is sort of pretty, but is slugglishly repetitive and ultimately an unmemorable closer. Each song in the middle section of the EP has its moments—Ray knows how to write a pop song, as the synth lines in “Let’s Go to the Beach” and “Lately” get stuck in your head­—but the completely indiscernible vocals grow tiresome after a while, especially after seeing Ray’s potential to sing clearly and melodically on Celebration tracks like “Alex,” “It’s Just a Pop Song,” and “God.”

Although it’s been his style since the band’s early days, Ray’s whiny monotone overdriving the mic and slopped into the mix on “Lost Cause” is almost frustrating at this point. The track has all the makings for a great power-pop song: super bright guitar leads, great synth arpeggios, and a thick bassline.  But Ray’s off-key drone just sucks all the life out of it. Maybe that’s the point though, as lines like, “some days it’s a lost cause,” and, “I don’t feel inspired anymore,” are manically opposed with, “what a perfect day / it’s been a while since I felt this way.” Perhaps his gloomy voice looming over the beachy instrumentals is Ray’s way of conveying the contrasting emotions that come with manic depression.

The best of the bunch is “Slow to Work it Out,” which is propelled forward by a booming rhythm and a snapping clap. Ray’s vocals are drenched in warbling auto-tune and are meshed with the harmonized synth patterns to create a beautiful, warm, textured melody.

Ray also said in that Fader interview that this EP “aims to arrive at the same conclusion [as Celebration] in only six tracks,” which doesn’t really seem possible given the record’s strength was in its expansiveness. Bonus EP isn’t a step backwards for Teen Suicide—especially since these are still complex arrangements performed by musicians who’re right now entering their prime—but rather a sidestep that just doesn’t leave the same impact that Celebration did. I still have no doubt that a future incarnation of this project will have any trouble outdoing themselves.

Score: 5/10

Eli Enis | @eli_enis