If the 80’s are back, it is safe to say that Chicago-based duo Grapetooth have known for a while. Bandmates Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni are no strangers to the Windy City music scene. Frankel sings and plays guitar in local legend band Twin Peaks, while Vailoni produced under the name Home-sick. However, their self-titled debut "Grapetooth", released November 9, introduces a completely new and bizarre sound - one that will have you questioning what era you are in.
My initial thought about this album was how insanely fun it sounded. The band has previously claimed that nothing they write makes sense, and have stayed true to that philosophy. Each song is perfectly crafted chaos, complete with synthesizers, drum machines, and alternating vocals. From the opening track, “Violent,” where recklessness is highly encouraged through the intense questioning of the chorus (“How violent are you?”), it is clear that listeners are in for a wild ride. “Red Wine” is the perfect background noise for a college house party, while the ten word chorus in “Trouble” is still capable of bringing people to their feet. “Mile After Mile,” one of the album’s slower songs, still keeps the overall upbeat attitude. While this track could definitely be the score to a coming of age film, playing while the protagonist walks home in the rain after being stood up at prom, there is still a sense of playfulness in the beat and arrangement. Even at their gloomiest, Grapetooth can’t stand to be down for too long.
As the album progresses, the tracks only become bolder. “Death” has an Ariel Pink type of bounce to it, the bass sounding akin to an 80’s video game. “Hangover Sq.” is a heavy synth ballad about lost love, Chris’ vocals taking on an Echo & the Bunnymen-esque tone. The debut comes together with party anthem “Blood,” where the eccentric keyboard riffs and chanting make it near impossible not to jump around. Grapetooth closes with “Together,” a homely track, ending with screams, laughs, and a very intense harmonica solo. The addition of the B-track bantering makes sure the enjoyment they had when recording is the last thing we hear.
Overall, Grapetooth is an ambitious, yet accurate, first glimpse into what this band is all about. It perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to be young and dumb and completely invincible to the world around you. For Frankel and Bailoni, two kids content with living as freely as they please, their songs ring with heartfelt earnesty and truth. More than anything, this album is a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously. As Clay sings in “Trouble”, “I don’t mind living, I don’t mind giving it up” - that carefree view of life is sometimes just what we need.
Be sure to give Grapetooth a listen, or if you happen to be in Milwaukee, catch their upcoming show!
November 30 - The Sett - Milwaukee, Wisconsin