Teenage Halloween's Debut Album

Filled with Energy, Love, and Unity

Review by Nick Manduley

September 28, 2020

Teenage Halloween

Asbury Park punks Teenage Halloween released their self-titled debut album on September 18th via Don Giovanni Records. The LP is a follow up to the band’s 2017 EP Eternal Roast. The release centers around “mental health and queer struggles” according to the group’s bandcamp page. The ten-track record packs pop hooks, raucous guitars, upbeat drumming, and vulnerable, honest lyricism into a twenty-three minute package.

The record kicks off with the energetic tracks “Stationary” and “Holes,” which happen to be the first two singles from this record. These tracks, like the rest of the record, are chock full of memorable lyrics that fans will no doubt be screaming when shows eventually return. I can’t even so much as glance at my local Speedway station anymore without singing “I pass the gas station / my thoughts all seem to rhyme” in my head. The infectious chorus of “Holes” has the same effect, which isn’t surprising considering vocalist/guitarist Luke Henderiks’ incredible track record for songwriting.

The soaring horn section and pop hooks on “Drown” keeps the energy flowing into “SMH City,” which has somewhat of a false start; the track opens with a few measures of folky mid-tempo goodness before the guitar kicks into high gear with Henderiks’ signature punk vocals.

Teenage Halloween

Sweat” is the third single from the album, and an important one at that; it captures the anxieties and frustrations of living in the world as it currently stands, while experiencing love against that backdrop. Anyone who experiences existential dread from simply turning on the news will surely relate to this emotive and honest track. “Clarity” touches on recognizing one’s own privilege as well as the general population’s complacency with the powers that be. The guitar riff during the verse hooks the listener in from the get-go, and is complemented by a brilliant horn melody; the chorus is also 110% shout-along material.

Those who have had the pleasure of seeing Teenage Halloween in concert in the past year and a half may recognize the tracks “Summer Money” and “Racehorse.” I was very much looking forward to hearing the studio versions of these songs, and the band does not disappoint. “Summer Money” is a catchy and rambunctious tune that demonstrates a return to the album’s high-energy start. “Racehorse” is a heartfelt mid-tempo track that deals with themes of police brutality and systematic racism. The instrumentation on this track is undoubtedly one of my favorites; the beautiful combination of Henderiks’ guitar strumming and pianist Jane Lai’s chord voicing fill out the song’s intro, while Brandon Hakim’s passionate saxophone performance and guitarist Eli Frank’s face-melting leads cultivate a massive full-bodied sound that helps draw the song to a close.

The album draws to a close with “Figwit” and “Turn Right, Goes Straight.” “Figwit” offers a resounding mantra that many will surely relate to: “Try hard, wake up / That’s all you can do.” It’s an anthem for those who yearn for a more kind and just world, while trying to survive and cope with the current state of existence. “Turn Right, Goes Straight” is a folky punk tune that starts with a catchy horn melody and an infectious bassline, before building up to an energetic, upbeat finale complete with a mind-bending guitar solo. The song lyrically centers around youthful hopes and aspirations that can become derailed when life takes an unexpected turn.

Something I’ve always loved about Teenage Halloween, after seeing them in various DIY venues across New Jersey, is the fullness of their sound; their brand of power-pop-rock includes horns, piano, and brilliant harmonies. Their chemistry and cohesion as a band is apparent on their self-titled record, and effectively takes me back to the pre-COVID days of packed shows in small rooms. The energy, love, and unity of that environment (one that the band has never failed to foster) is overtly present on Teenage Halloween’s first LP. Fans can stream the record on all major platforms, and support the band by grabbing some of their awesome merch on their bandcamp page.

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