Teenager, the third album by the Thrills, finds the band up to its old tricks, namely playing atmospheric rock numbers hung on frontman Conor Deasy’s distinctly expressive voice. But for this album, the members of the band trade the beach ambience for a more introspective look at the Dublin of their youth. Teenager applies an American pop sensibility to the Irish question, resulting in a heartfelt if slightly bombastic depiction of getting over and growing up.
The Thrills, who seek to make music in the vein of Neil Young and the Beach Boys, have fallen victim to the overproduction that have plagued some of their idols’ albums. Opener “The Midnight Choir” captures the angst and excitement associated with new experience. Deasy’s vocal wavers with the right amount of uncertainty, and the rest of the band offers a tentatively optimistic groove. Production becomes an issue when these parts are buried beneath layers of studio-perfect instruments and overdubbed vocals.
The album gains little from the effects heaped upon it, but Teenager is able to escape being totally buried under them. After the light tone of 2003’s So Much for the City, the crass carelessness of 2004’s Let’s Bottle Bohemia and the band’s supporting tours with mega-brand U2, the easy bet would have been that the Thrills were just another band seeking to maintain radio presence after an initial taste of success.
Tuning out the extraneous matter, however, Teenager proves to be coherent and intriguing. The album is concerned with the relationships and problems of youth, and the members of the Thrills are at the adolescent stage in their development as a band. Teenager is torn between precise production and genuine soul. The Thrills need to decide which one will eventually govern their band.