In the ultimate triumph of style over substance, The Teenagers began life as a fashionable gag – a fake band page on myspace set up by three impossibly cool Parisian friends over Christmas 2005. Whether the trio intended to make music on the back of these fictitious origins is unclear, rather the whole project is a glorious reflection on the ridiculous possibilities of the internet: where the nineties gave us faceless djs, this decade brings with it music-less fashionistas. But it’s not all bad: considering their inauspicious beginnings, The Teenagers’ debut album 'Reality Check' has emerged as a forty minute diatribe of filthpop, laid out like a corrupted nymph over synths and keys that will soar and chug straight past the censor and into the beds of the appearance-obsessed adolescents of the digital age.
Opener ‘Homecoming’ garnered huge amounts of hype upon its release last May. More than a little salicious, this reworked Danny and Sandy boy-meets-girl summer romance story transposes the sentimentality of the fifties into unapologetic lewdness with the words, "I fucked, my American cunt", spelled out in blunt monosyllables that will have mothers everywhere locking up their wayward daughters. It’s more than a little ironic that The Teenagers consists of three twenty-somethings, Quentin, Dorian and Michael. Though credited with single-handedly reviving French indie, there’s something irredeemably pornographic about their stilted French accents and deep lo-fi voices purring paedo-obscenities inbetween innocent teen-tales about eating crisps at parties and getting told off for having a messy bedroom.
The whole album works this same format, showing severe limitations with the transparency of album-fillers ‘III’ and ‘Make It Happen’, of which the former descends into a particularly relentless chorus that repeatedly professes "I don’t know anything" over a reverb-soft drum-machine, and the latter mixes vocals from nineties boy-band hell with glitzy disco in an unappetizing revival of manufactured music better left in the past. The irony is that, essentially, this is also The Teenagers’ greatest appeal. Their music embraces obscenity and cliché alike, emphasising the trivial as only teenagers themselves quite manage. The voiceover in guitar-led garage-pop number, ‘Love No’, oscillates between camp griping and nervous love-lost wondering in a repetitive exhibition of unsure emotion that captures the perpetual agony of adolescent-angst better than any tabloid pseudo-psychologist. Meanwhile ‘Feeling Better’ is amusingly reminiscent of the title music for a nineties’ cartoon. Unabashedly self-promoting uptempo pop, it proclaims "Are you missing your friends? Well we don’t care, just buy our t-shirts, and talk about us everywhere."
It is this kind of overblown audacity that makes The Teenagers’ evident obsession with appearances bearable, as trend-following teens leap onto the skinny-jean clad bandwagon and their older brothers and sisters can sit back, a bit smug, and titter along with Quentin, Dorian and Michael at the irony of it all.