13 Track, LP (2006, Timberyard Records)
Play All Tracks In New Window
Conjecture about whether Teenager’s Thirteen – the long in the making project fronted by Pnau’s Nick Littlemore, and Pip Brown of New Zealand’s Two Lane Blacktop, assisted by a raft of distinguished guests – is rock or dance is superfluous. It’s a pop record, albeit a particularly exotic species that equally suggests creative guile and hints of self-indulgence. There’s nothing here as remotely crass as Bodyrockers’ ‘I Like The Way’ – the norm is the smooth interplay of ‘Alone Again’, where a plunging New Order bass offsets the silken backing vocals. Littlemore’s real achievement may be to hold the project together in the presence of competing session hands: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley inject urgency into the opening ‘Liquid Cement’, while Thierry Muller collaborates on a series of lush Parisian soundscapes.
There are the inevitable eighties references, but they skew unexpectedly, taking in David Byrne and Iva Davies. What the album lacks is vocal tone, with Littlemore liberally treating his vocals and adopting different roles song to song, with the elegiac ‘The Good Fight’ and the scrappy ‘Good Together’ exemplifying the differences track to track. ‘Pony’ is the closest the album comes to cheap genre holidaying, approximating rock attitude when the organic and desperate growth of ‘Bound And Gagged’ is so much more impressive. But for each misstep Thirteen rights itself, often strongly. It’s more than just fodder for fashionistas.
by Craig Mathieson