Tegan And Sara - Hey, I'm Just Like You (Cover Artwork)

Tegan And Sara

Hey, I'm Just Like You (2019)


You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone and you don’t realize how much you missed hearing guitar on a Tegan and Sara song until you get it back. That isn’t to say there weren’t some great, memorable tracks on 2013’s Heartthrob and (to a lesser extent) 2016’s Love You To Death but Hey, I’m Just Like You has a sound that feels like sinking back into the welcoming, warm embrace of fan-favourites like Sainthood, The Con, or So Jealous.

If Hey, I’m Just Like You sounds like a throwback, that’s because it is. While writing their new memoir High School, the Canadian duo found a set of tapes containing songs they’d recorded during their teenage years. Those songs, with what Sara Quin calls “only minor tweaks to lyrics and structure” were rerecorded and make up the twelve tracks on Hey, I’m Just Like You.

None of that window dressing and expectation-tempering is necessary, however. Hey, I’m Just Like You is no collection of old demos and B-Sides, thrown together for side-by-side marketing with the new book. With almost no exceptions, the songs on it are capable of standing completely on their own merit. It’s a testament to the growth that the sisters have undergone as musicians that they’ve managed to produce such a polished sounding album from some of their first songwriting efforts and a testament to their raw talent as teenagers that the emotional bite of these songs is still poignant and sharp enough to cut through 30 years of production. That production is also a distillation of the sound they’ve been circling for their career, a coalescing of the two genres they listened to primarily during the writing of these songs: dance music and grunge merged into a sort of synth-grunge. Tension-building, hyper-literate verses explode into synth-washed, big-hook, cathartic choruses.

This formula is delivered to perfection on what, to me, is the standout track of the album, “We Don’t Have Fun When We’re Together Anymore”. A simple keyboard line gradually grows over the first verse before crashing into the beat of an undeniable chorus that surgically implants itself into the listener’s brain. Lyrically the song can do double duty as a break-up song or an ode to realizing that you’ve outgrown the antics of your social group but lines like ‘Have another drink, it'll make you cool / It'll make you you’ won’t stop you from dancing through it.

Other, more down-tempo numbers like “I Don’t Owe You Anything”, combine the guitar work of early T&S into the formula before returning to the big electronic pop choruses of their later output. There are a few times that the contrast gets turned up possibly a little too high, however. "Don't Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie)" has, in addition to that title, a weirdly psychedelic guitar solo and its chorus features what can only be described as a drop. Lyrically, it shows its age a little bit; more simplistic than the sisters’ later output. That goes for the song "Keep Them Close 'Cause They Will Fuck You Too" as well, packed with tender bravado, it a lacks a certain nuance which is totally forgivable in a song written by a teenager.

Complaints like that one though are like fussing about your seat in a limousine. Don’t let it distract from how impressive this album is. What could have easily been a throw-in promotional item to help sell a book or a bit of esoterica for die-hard fans and no one else, is instead a strong entry into the Tegan & Sara catalog, capable of standing side by side with some of their best albums. It should appeal to fans who have been with them since the 90’s and has enough hooks to reel in a neophyte or two.