When Brian Wilson was asked to describe the music he was creating for the album, Smile, he said it was “teenage symphonies to God.” The trio that makes up Velvet Crush created an album in 1994 that was rooted in bands like The Byrds and Big Star, and they called it, wait for it - Teenage Symphonies To God. It's a power-pop masterpiece and it’s today’s feature on I Own That CD!
Following up their debut album, which Rolling Stone magazine called “the year’s most addictive masterpiece” (and was produced by power-pop genius Matthew Sweet), the band enlisted the great producer Mitch Easter. Easter was able to draw out more from the band including some moments of post-punk and jangle pop (similar to his former band Let’s Active).
“Hold Me Up” kicks things off with a rollicking piece of sun-shiny rock music. The fact that this trio (Jeffrey Borchardt, Paul Chastain and Ric Menck) can produce such a big sound with a powerful rhythm section and some gnarly guitar work is incredible.
But it’s not just the up-tempo rock songs that catch you. The cover of Gene Clark’s “Why Not Your Baby” is pure folk-rock country at its finest. It’s gorgeous and captures the lost love that the lyrics dive into (“Why don’t you call me your baby anymore - Am I so changed from some strange love that went before”).
The other “cover” is a Matthew Sweet penned song, “Something’s Gotta Give” that sounds like it’s straight from the Girlfriend-era days of Sweet’s music. A reimagining that could even surpass the original version.
My favorite is the blistering track “This Life Is Killing Me” and while it’s bleak messaging is evident (“I believe - That my life is running out on me”), you can’t help but crank up your speakers to eleven - and besides, I was 24 when this came out, didn’t I want some rockin’ angsty music?
The soaring vocals, chiming guitars and snappy backbeat echo throughout in songs like the beautiful “Faster Days” and “Atmosphere”.
The closer, “Keep On Lingerin’” is a pedal-steel, road trip song of uncertainty. Is it uncertainty about the band? A relationship? You decide as you allow it to fade out with the belief that you’ll hear the crackling of a record from 1966.
It’s surprising to me that in 1994, Creation Records (a subdivision of Epic Records) couldn’t find a way to get this music more out into the mainstream, but by 1994, the next British Invasion was in full force with Oasis releasing their debut (and feuding with Blur) and Green Day hit it big with Dookie.
Teenage Symphonies To God is, as the album cover says, contemporary pop music and you can borrow my copy if you’d like.