Metallica may have disappointed me the most this year, Kanye may have frustrated me the most, Guns N’ Roses may have annoyed me the most, and Be Your Own Pet’s breakup did the most to break my heart. But no band outright angered me this year quite like XX Teens, whose debut album, Welcome to Goon Island, inspired me to listen to it more times than it deserved before turning it off in disgust.
I’m sure the five boys of XX Teens would love to know they’re pissing off critics, just like they love to piss off people who Google them (not only does that trick not work anymore, but it was essentially already done by !!! five years ago). While the idea of pissing people off only later to be seen as geniuses sounds cool in theory, XX Teens’ problems come in their execution of that goal. It’s very hard to treat yourself as misunderstood geniuses when others haven’t misunderstood you yet.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing, XX Teens are deceptively doing the same thing as Kanye’s “voice of this generation of this decade” crap. By trying to define they’re own specific legacy, they’re actually ramming it down their listener’s throats, and daring the music world to question them. The only problem: XX Teens aren’t as good at what they do as Kanye is. Allow me to launch my own Operation: Humble the Goons.
- The band is trying to be daring, eclectic and dangerous, yet all its songs are essentially postmodern breakup songs. Is that an attempt to be pop friendly and aggressive at the same time? Or is it a cop-out?
- The band wavers between trying to be this decade’s B-52s (there’s a "let’s rent an island and let’s have a party!" element to the album) and a fierce indie-rock guitar band, but the members have made songs that are cold, uninviting and obtuse. Is that a paradox? Actually, it’s an incongruity. You have to make your “Rock Lobster” before you can take a serious turn. You can’t have it all at once.
- “B54,” a pro-gay-marriage spoof, starts with the lyrics "Six little boys coming on a fire trying to make a baby." Is this pro-gay marriage and sarcastic, or anti-gay marriage and deceptively serious? They end the album with an ode to liberal protester Brian Haw, so you’d think it’s the former. But this song is pro-gay like “I Kissed a Girl” is pro-gay — turning a serious issue into a novelty song. All the complaints about Katy Perry apply here, no matter where the XX Teens really stand on the issue.
- “Only You” is the only song on the album that sees its uplifting qualities not ruined by a snarky touch. I never knew actually making a consistent song could turn into an endorphin rush, but the XX Teens do it here. Is that a clever deconstruction of pop? Or is it the sign an album that just lacks any consistent songs?
Listen, here’s the XX Teens’s main problem: Most bands see getting and album released by Mute, getting good reviews, and maybe meaning something to some people’s lives as an immense privilege. The XX Teens feel like they’re entitled to it. But like a entitled spoiled rich kid, the XX Teens don’t merit the attention they assume they deserve. Luckilly, the rock world won’t provide them with a set of wealthy parents to bail them out.