When I say I’m unimpressed, you best believe I’m unimpressed, U-N-I-M…aww, fuck it.
What I’ve got here is the second album, Teen Bop Dream, by Portland glam-punks the Soda Pop Kids. While it is by no means a terrible record, it also isn’t, say, a very good record, or an original record, or a truly engaging record. At its core, Teen Bop Dream is just straight-up New York Dolls worship, delivered in an overproduced, tarted-up package.
Right from the get-go, the album leaves a Splenda-sweet taste in your mouth -- not to mention an odd-smelling, sticky residue on your hands. Opener “Saturday Every Day” begins with a group of children chanting the song’s title, evoking the unavoidable Bay City Rollers hit, “Saturday Night.” Of course, no punk band has ever referenced that song before. After this little intro, the song segues into bluesy glam rock of the Dolls variety, complete with rock’n’roll piano, mediocre solos, and Johansen-y off-key vocals. Not a great song. The second track, however, picks up in both tempo and quality. “Fell in Love at the Arcade” is a fast, fun pop song that’s more in line with the band that perfected the late-`70s power-pop revival style, fellow Oregonians the Exploding Hearts. This song also proves the central truth of Teen Bop Dream: the faster the tempo, the better the song.
The album basically continues on as a pastiche of various pre-punk pop and rock’n’roll styles: doo-wop, country, and `50s pop, among others. There’s even a tearful ballad, “Another Cigarette Ends,” which, as predicted by the central truth of the album, falls flat on its face. The slow songs, which really require some depth of emotion and songwriting, uniformly fail -- they’re just not catchy enough for this band and this style.
I know I’m painting a pretty negative picture, and the fact is, the negatives are far more noticeable than the positives of this album. While many of the songs are fairly enjoyable, there’s always some element within them that doesn’t work. Whether it’s the irritating keyboard line in “Too Pretty,” the saxophone line in the otherwise wonderful “Bloodshot Eyes” that sounds like a dog farting, or the general tendency of the band to continue a song after it’s clearly ended, there’s always something to take issue with.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible not to compare the Soda Pop Kids to the bands that influenced them, and when you’re comparing any band to the likes of the New York Dolls and the Exploding Hearts, they’re bound to come up short. Coupled with the nagging flaws present in every song, it’s hard to really peg Teen Bop Dream as anything other than the low end of mediocre. In the end, the Soda Pop Kids just need a little less “Throwaway Style,” and a lot more substance.