ACT - The Teen Appeal (Wizzard in Vinyl/Pop the Baloon)
When I was in primary school our teacher explained the history of European interest in the Australian continent. Common understanding has it that Australia was discovered by Captain Cook, whose discovery led ultimately to the settlement of Australia by an intriguing bunch of pompous English bureaucrats, convicts and a significant female contingent enlisted to stop the fledgling colony descending into a festival anarchy and sodomy (these days the term ‘settlement’ has been replaced by the more legally correct ‘conquest’, a more than subtle distinction that continues to annoy the fuck out of conservative commentators throughout Australia). In reality the first European visitors to Australia were the Dutch (who had the misfortune to land on the inhospitable north-west coast), with the Portugese (at that time a real player on the world stage, compared to that country’s dubious contemporary status).
The French were also in the mix as well. In fact, our teacher remarked when describing the story of a meeting in South Australia between French and English ships (at that time embroiled in one of their many fierce battles for European colonial supremacy), had there been a slight change in salient historical events, Australia could have found itself settled – or conquered – by the French, which (amongst other notable consequences – including maybe some better culinary traditions) would’ve meant French being the lingua franca of the Australian colonial nation. To a nine year old boy, the possibility that we’d be speaking French was a bit tough to comprehend.
So what does this all have to do with The Teen Appeal? Well, the Teen Appeal is French, but every time I listen to the band’s posthumous release, Act, I’m convinced I’m listening to a Dom Mariani tape that’s been washed up on the shores of the eastern states of Australia. The Teen Appeal – the title is a tribute to The Plimsouls, a major influence – formed in 1990 in the Isere region, centered around the songwriting talents of guitarist and vocalist Emmanuel Bault. The Teen Appeal’s first album, “When It Comes”, was released in 1994, with a single a couple of years later. A second album died with another line-up change, and the Teen Appeal ceased to be in late 1997.
“Act” is comprised of songs slated for release on the band’s second album, plus a bunch of songs from very early on in the Teen Appeal history. With its catchy hooks and frantic drum beats, the title track is almost note perfect power pop, the type of song that makes you want to jump in a car and drive to the beach and bask in the pleasures of the seaside environment. “Someday” could easily be renamed “Someloves”, such is its acute association with the Australian band of that name (which is not to suggest in any way that plagiarism is involved) and "Happy the Halfwit" is similarly entertaining, sprightly and a recipe for dancing. The presence of keyboards in Possessive Love gives a distinctly garage feel to a riff that has its origin in Keef’s explosion of creative riffs in the late 1960s and 1970s.
I approached “Mr Sayer” with trepidation, with a lingering concern that it might be a celebration of the short English guy with the Afro who turned up periodically on the Australian pop charts in the 1970s (and who’s since made Australia his permanent home) but my concern was proven to be unfounded. “Mr Sayer” is anything but trite in its Stems-like brilliance (and Easybeats-ish chopping guitar). “She’s Gone Away” is arguably a bit on the melancholic side of the pop equation, but it’s equally a natural break on the album that leads nicely to the fuzzy guitar introduction to “Vampirella” (itself worthy of comparison with Deniz Tek’s solo stuff as well as Trilobites and Screaming Tribesmen efforts). “Girl” should be packaged up and sent over to James Baker as a tribute to James’ ubiquitous use of the female gender in early Scientists tunes – the song itself doesn’t cut the Dijon mustard quite like Salmon and Baker’s early efforts but it’s worth a listen nonetheless.
“Cecllia” and “Lost Time” are taken from a recording session in 1992, and are (objectively) of lesser quality than the band’s later material (the liner notes include an amusing explanation of the deficiencies in the band’s early songs). Yet “Money” (a pumped up Church who’ve traded psychedelics for cold beer) and the bubble-gum pop of “Summer is Coming” illustrate the spark that underpinned the Teen Appeal’s early performances.
The beauty of good power pop is its marriage of melody, pumping rhythms and sunny rock’n’roll attitude. The Teen Appeal have – sorry, had – that in spades. Kudos to whoever’s responsible for getting this album out into public view. - Patrick Emery
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