It’s not every day that you get three grown men unabashedly owning up to the fact that they play fuzz-pop love ballads. So when declaration like this does comes along, as it did with Washington, DC based trio Teen Mom, you had best believe it’s going to spawn something special. Such is the case with the short but sweet six-song EP, Mean Tom.
The debut release from the band is pretty easy to pin down from the start. Operating easily within the genre to which it has been named, each track has a delicate feel, as if its being heard through a screen. Vocals are airy and indiscernible, but still inherently sweet. Instrumentals are unexpectedly heavy at times, as in “Almost Happy” which help to give the band weight and keep the project from becoming too fluffy and insubstantial. As it progresses, you come to realise that Mean Tom is going to play out exactly how you’d expect it to, but it’s such an interesting product that that fact doesn’t necessarily work against them. Quite the opposite of boring, there are enough layers and emotions to make you feel something, even if you have no clue what they’re trying to say.
Perhaps it is this almost-rambling incoherency that makes Mean Tom remarkable in its earnestness. Simple lyrics like “I stay cause I really like staying/I stay cause I’m married to her/You know that I will love you forever/Yeah, I’m sure” (“Gehry”) make each track seem almost tentative and consequently genuine. It is immediately endearing, and undoubtedly a testament to the band’s declaration that they rely primarily on their own experiences when writing music.
It is these elements that make it pretty easy to see the band as they seem to want us to — just three guys playing love songs. After all, the record reads a lot like a shy dude’s first declaration of love — you might not get a lot of length, there might not be very many words, and most of them are likely to be pretty much incomprehensible, but it’s a wonderful thing that you’re sure to remember nevertheless.