Teenage Wrist – ‘Still Love’

By Katherine Allvey

Midway through 2022, Teenage Wrist frontman Marshall Gallagher was feeling lost. His mental health had taken a hit during the pandemic (“I hit rock bottom and didn’t recognise myself,” he says). His band – previously a trio, then a quartet – had shrunk to a duo in 2020, and their most recent album had earned mixed reviews.

However, Gallagher was not deterred. He and his new bestie, Anthony Salazar, holed themselves up in an empty house in the middle of the scarred Joshua Tree National Park with a whole stack of vintage gear and a mission to simply make music and work out the details later. “There was no other intent than for us to express ourselves,” explained Salazar, and from their free-flowing jam sessions coalesced Teenage Wrist’s new album ‘Still Love’. You can almost feel the dry desert heat blowing through your hair with each upcycled grunge riff in this album. It’s equal parts intimate whisper and radio signal to the universe. 

As you’d expect from a band recording without a plan, some of their previously tight songwriting has been forsaken in favour of an overwhelming sense of freedom. While Teenage Wrist are still going through Eddie Vedder’s bins to produce their characteristic homage to grunge, their music has evolved to be closer to present day retrospectives produced by the same stadium filling behemoths who once hung out at the original Starbucks. Thankfully, their lyrical commentary on the modern world is less tiresome than Pearl Jam’s rants about how nice forests are. “I’m just a shadow of my digital self / trading my boredom for a comfortable cell”, Gallagher sings on ‘Digital Self’ over a guitar melody that bridges the gap between The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. The feeling he captures on that track is the same dissociative emptiness you feel when you look at photos of yourself posed to emulate spontaneous joy on your socials on a day when you felt like crying. 

If you want guitar rock, this album won’t disappoint. ‘Dark Sky’ and ‘Sunshine’ are chock full of the crunchy riffs that Teenage Wrist have made their trademark and even the quietly contemplative ‘Something Good’ features long, brash chords that pulse out like ripples from a stone dropped into a lake. However, by the end of ‘Still Love’, it’s clear that Teenage Wrist are pondering taking a turn towards the experimental and experiential. The final two songs, ’Sprawled’ and ‘Ketamine’ have a different flavour to the rest of the album and feel like a weak ending that fades out with a half-hearted ‘meh’. If we take these two songs as an introduction to a new phase in Teenage Wrist’s career, the future seems divisive for the band. The prog fans will be rejoicing, but for those of us who love the plaid-shirt and ripped jeans sound of Teenage Wrist, we can only hope we’re listening to the outcome of Gallagher catching a bit too much desert sun. 

Teenage Wrist are a band in flux and ‘Still Love’ is very much a transitional album.  As a snapshot of where they are at this moment, this album is a flash of very revealing rock. While there are signs, perhaps in the form of red flags, that Teenage Wrist are heading down a new road away from their spiritual homeland of 90s Seattle, there’s a lot to enjoy among the guitar-strewn, vulnerable landscape they currently inhabit.  Here’s to hoping they continue to explore the starkly beautiful introspection which their music embodies without losing themselves along the way.

KATE ALLVEY

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