The Velvet Teen - Cum Laude! (Cover Artwork)

The Velvet Teen

The Velvet Teen: Cum Laude!Cum Laude! (2006)
Slowdance Records

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:

Contributed by: Oskurt_RedwallOskurt_Redwall
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Eschewing the alt-rock intricacies of Out of the Fierce Parade and mostly down-tempo, piano-centric orchestrations of Elysium, the Velvet Teen once again redefine themselves and their sound on their latest triumph, Cum Laude!. Cum Laude! not only treads new ground for the group, but does so with for.
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Eschewing the alt-rock intricacies of Out of the Fierce Parade and mostly down-tempo, piano-centric orchestrations of Elysium, the Velvet Teen once again redefine themselves and their sound on their latest triumph, Cum Laude!. Cum Laude! not only treads new ground for the group, but does so with formidable aplomb, wrecking any notion that this band can be pinned down.

In contrast to Elysium's six extended tracks, Cum Laude! favors shorter, quicker, and more dynamic compositions. One of the first things you'll notice on it is the heavy vocal filters, which, ironically, only embolden Judah Nagler's croon. Nagler has never been stronger and here his voice simply rises above the glitch-heavy rock like a heralding of something prophetic and radical. Opening track "333" attests to this when Nagler belts out, "I took the pain out of my pen / I took my self out of my selfish ways / and wrote all...I took the greed out of my grin / and sunk my teeth into my work instead / and they followed."

Although produced with the same sparkling precision as Elysium, Cum Laude! is a hybridized beast of a supremely varied parentage. And although the electronic add-ins come from sources that are currently being widely exploited (like slightly off-key video game samples or eighties-sounding riff samples) the combination of effects and sounds is unlike anything else being done in contemporary independent rock. In start contrast to the intimate draw of Elysium, some might find this album a bit off-putting, and I posit that it is the intention; the Teens are simply directing your attention elsewhere, or everywhere, instead of straight ahead.

Only one song drops the voice inflection ("False Profits"), and while it surely is the slower, stand-out track of the album, it's a nice break in the momentum, allowing one to savor the subsequent buildup. It peaks again with the outstanding "Spin the Wink" and the jewel of the album, "Gyzmkid," an uplifting, intimate, and intriguing opus. Each track is a creation of its own standing, completely unlike the surrounding ones, but entirely Velvet Teen. "Roller Rink" truly sounds like Nagler, Deitz and Staples are playing in a punk rock roller rink; Nagler's vocals sound like they're emanating from some tinny, rink-side amplifier while some dateless emo kids fill the background with video game glitch-and-pop. "Noi Boi" starts out with a riff that could have been torn from a Genesis or Peter Gabriel song circa 1988. "Flicking Clint" throws down jangly guitar with the minimal of electronic infusion, but pushes Nagler's all-out wail to the forefront.

And with each song you're going to get the standard personal, erudite, and often elusive -- but always passionate and calculated -- lyrics. The Velvet Teen obviously put some thought into the theme and song titles as well, banking on the rebirth idea with "Gyzmkid" and "Bloom," "Building a Whale," and "Noi Boi," not to mention the double entendre album title (but what the fuck, I mentioned it anyway).

Having seen the Velvet Teen this past winter (along with about forty others) and having listened to the "Gyzmkid" single a gazillion times in the past two months, I was prepared for something very different. (The previous time I had seen VT was a stirring but mostly sit-down affair.) While I was disappointed at the recent show's omission of not only the epic "Chimera Obscurant" but also the complete keks and Elysium songs, once Nagler turned on his computer and started breaking strings, I knew this shit was going to be something special.

And Cum Laude! truly is special. There's nothing like it out there. Each track rises above the next and each track has its own identity. If there's one reason the Velvet Teen only attracts a handful of listeners on a cold winter night, it's because this band is simply too fucking sophisticated for the desensitized ears of the masses. The Velvet Teen shatter their own mold on a regular basis and perhaps listeners can't keep up. Cum Laude! is a graduation of sorts -- and it's unlike any other ceremony. If you're willing to attend, the payoff is worth it.


People who liked this also liked:
Refused - The Shape of Punk to ComeHey Mercedes - Everynight Fire WorksBraid - Frame & CanvasThe Velvet Teen - Out Of The Fierce ParadeThe Velvet Teen - ElysiumThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldWeezer - PinkertonP.O.S. - Never BetterColossal - Welcome The ProblemsElliott - Song In The Air

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Jonmdill (August 3, 2009)

3 year bump

Jonmdill (August 3, 2009)

If you really don't like this album, you're probably just not giving it a legitimate chance. These guys made a completely original sound, and they did it well. All of them are extremely talented musicians, and Judah Nagler is a brilliant songwriter, but the music is often so abrasive that it is somewhat inaccessible. If you try and make sense of what seems like chaos, you can really find something beautiful.

Anonymous (August 31, 2006)

I remember that song "I Can't Dance" by Genesis, and that was definatly 90's.

Anonymous (August 28, 2006)

god, i love this record.

Anonymous (August 28, 2006)

I just can't get into this. Its just annoying music to listen to.

Scruffy (August 27, 2006)

Dude, Peter Gabriel's last album was rad.

chickswithdicks (August 27, 2006)

there are far too many perfect scores on this website.

Jesse (August 27, 2006)

Yeah, Genesis after Peter Gabriel left was like the Phil Collins Band. And we all know that PC is just a weak excuse for PG, even though he apes him the best.

Incidentally, when was "Land of Confusion" released? I can't find that song on any timeline, but it's get the best Reagan puppet launching a nuclear warhead ever.

SlowStupidHungry (August 27, 2006)

I dunno, I'm pretty sure, like most other prog bands, nobody bought or listened to Genesis after their early-mid 70's heyday. I guess you COULD make a comparison, but I doubt many people would grasp what it means. The definitive Genesis sound is not late 80's music.

Everyone I know who considers themselves big Genesis fans only has their big 70's albums like "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and stuff. I mean, if I were to cite 80's King Crimson, would people honestly know what to think in terms of the comparative properties in a review of a popular modern band?

Fuzzy (August 27, 2006)

From that same website, they had two studio albums after '88.

Anonymous (August 27, 2006)

1988 was around the time of their last major tour. Can see the timeline at: http://www.genesis-music.com/

Fuzzy (August 27, 2006)

Oh, and maybe the person was actually referencing the sounds that Genesis had circa 1988. Granted, they may have been past their prime, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a distinctive sound.

You're right that if someone references simply "Genesis" or "the Buzzcocks" then they are probably referring to their earlier works, but the reviewer/commenter gave a date for a reason.

Fuzzy (August 27, 2006)

Nope, a lot of kids in my area really liked Genesis in middle school. I have no desire or need to do research to "call you out."

SlowStupidHungry (August 27, 2006)

Yeah, I know, but if it's Genesis-like, when people think of Genesis, they think of early 70's prog.

It's kind of weird to describe a band's sound as that of a band way past their prime. Like if I described a band's song as "a Buzzcock's song straight from 1993!"- People don't think of the early 90's when they typically think of a Buzzcocks song. Also, what records were Genesis making in the 80's? I'm curious if you just wiki'd that to try to "call me out" or not.

Fuzzy (August 26, 2006)

Genesis were still around in the mid-90's, Will.

SlowStupidHungry (August 26, 2006)

"‚??Noi Boi‚?Ě starts out with a riff that could have been torn from a Genesis or Peter Gabriel song circa 1988."

Genesis were still around in 1988? Correct me if I'm wrong, but we're they from the early 70's or something?

FuckYouOiOiOi (August 26, 2006)

hahaha, i never go to pitchfork's website

Fuzzy (August 26, 2006)

Wait, so you're mad that we report on bands getting their albums ready, thus you know more about what's going on with them? And you'd be irritated to read an analysis of a band's impact on their fans?


OverDefined (August 26, 2006)

Regardless, anything that makes this place more pitchfork(media) is bad. I see it all the time. Little things. It drives me nuts. Bands "prepping albums" and shit. Next we're going to get weekly essays on Chris Hannah's interest in hockey and how that correlates to the rising trend of Slapshot interest among 20 somethings in Rwanda.

Fuzzy (August 26, 2006)

"goddammit, i must have been redirected to www.pitchfork.com."
If you were redirected to pitchfork.com you'd be reading about buying, selling, and trading cattle.


OverDefined (August 26, 2006)

I can't even read this review. I'm a fucking genius too.

Sally_Field (August 26, 2006)

goddammit, i must have been redirected to www.pitchfork.com.

If you were redirected to pitchfork.com you'd be reading about buying, selling, and trading cattle.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

good review.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

At first, hated the album and thought it was shallow and elementary (especially the title). But two days after I first listened to it. I could not get Noi Boi, Spin the Wink, and Rhodekill out of my head. They were hooked in there like they were pure pop.

This album is a fuzzy reverbed return to their early EP's. Really, the reverb is the only thing that sucks about this album. If it was gone, the music would be pure candy. Lyrics leave something to be desired, but at least it's no long "drain my wrists, heart on my shoulder" like Elysium.

capitalist_pig (August 25, 2006)

I like how the reviewer channels the band's pretentiousness and makes it his own.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

great review!

arrhythmia (August 25, 2006)

The review is written really well, but the score is completely out of the ball park =p

kirbypuckett (August 25, 2006)

This album bored the hell out of me.

- Kirby

Jesse (August 25, 2006)

Hey everybody -


You can give an album any sort of rating you want to - if you write the review. Our friend Kurt here really, really likes the album. He gave it a ten. He thought it was perfect. When I really, really like an album, I give it a ten. There's no standardized grading scale.

This is why Brian gives a seven to everything.

But isn't this what listen to music is all about? Really, really loving something? Being passionate about it? What the fuck is your problem? Everyone's bitching about objectivity - IT DOESN'T EXIST. Especially not in a review. A review is an expression of someone's likes or dislikes, aka, OPINIONS. So cry yourself to fucking sleep praying for a robot to come along and review this album, or WRITE A REVIEW YOURSELF. It's not that hard.

It's easy to be critical of someone if you're not willing to try what this guy is.

Kurt -

I applaud your excitement, and I think the review is decently written. You'll get the hang of it. My first hundred reviews suck, and every other review I write sucks too. Stick in there buddy, and keep up the reviewing.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

Another thing that's good in reviews is telling what it sounds like. I've never heard this band, and you didn't exactly help.

almostpunkenough (August 25, 2006)

i didn't think music could be more boring than "Elysium", boy was i wrong.

Oskurt_Redwall (August 25, 2006)

Sorry to comment on my own review but yes, I can see how this review smacks of suck-assyness and seems excessively laudatory - and for that I apologize. I have no ties to the band or the label and truly think this is an incredible album but, after a couple weeks more of listening (I submitted this awhile ago), a bit more critical thinking wouldn't have hurt. I've recognized more than a few issues with the album, not enough to slam it down to a two or three, but perhaps enough to bring it down a few stars.

In my defense, this is only my second review. Still trying to figure out how to say "it's really fucking good/I reallly dig this" while also saying what's wrong with it.

- Kurt

historypeats (August 25, 2006)

Elysium was an 8, and was miles better than this. It's not that the Velvet Teen is too "sophisticated" - they just cluttered songs that already needed work with a bunch of unnecessary, hackneyed bullshit. It might grow on me more - "Flicking Clint" and a couple of others are good - but good albums make me stop playing whatever other CD I'm listening to just so I can hear them again, and this isn't one of those. I'm with the guy below me - giant disappointment.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

giant fucking disapointment. they always wrote really good songs but judah was a bit too pompous/grandiose for his own good. i figured that would be their downfall. i was wrong. they stopped writing songs that are anything more than average. gyzm kid is the only song that stands out.

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

not to be a dick but i thought fanboy reviews were banned, no seriously though

anyone care to give an objective review of this? someone who isn't cumming in their pants whenever these guys do whatever it is that they do

Anonymous (August 25, 2006)

what happened to the cover art

FuckYouOiOiOi (August 25, 2006)

goddammit, i must have been redirected to www.pitchfork.com.

DenBez (August 25, 2006)

Good? Yeah. A perfect ten? Not in a million fucking years. Go down to the corner store and buy yourself some objectivity.

Scruffy (August 25, 2006)

Insert album title double entendre here.

(Your mom inserted my double entendre somewhere).

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