XX Teens - Welcome To Goon Island

Though it isn’t for everyone, XX Teens’ debut is a success.

Label: Mute

Rating: 8

During an interview at some point in mid-July, as interest in XX Teens began to gain momentum, they were asked what they were currently up to. “We’re thinking about knocking out a quick album before the end of summer,” came the vague reply. “We’ve got the title –‘Welcome to Goon Island’, but no real songs.”

This casual attitude seems, upon first listen, to be typical of the band formerly known as Xerox Teens. Opening track ‘The Way We Were’ opens with propulsive buzz saw guitar and cowbell, but the insistent first lines soon trail off into nonsense: “Well I remember when we were young / We used to have so much fun, / We used to… ho, ha, ho…” A second voice elaborates, in stoned drawl reminiscent of Joey Ramone: “There was somethin’ ‘bout me and you, / We used to… mm ah ha…” By this point, DIY is ready to write ‘…Goon Island’ off as simply one in a line of hurried, ill-conceived projects from a bunch of poseur art-schoolers. Perhaps this mindset means we’re not overly receptive to the rest of them album – a directionless mess of funk riffs, carnival organ and homemade electronics. Only the straightforward brass-punk of last year’s single ‘Darlin’’ appeals.

A couple of runs through later though and XX Teens are suddenly brilliant. Partly, this is due to the mad genius of lyricist Rich Cash. Through the mud, it becomes clear that ‘…Goon Island’ isn’t moronic faux-art, but rather an intelligent celebration of idiocy and madness. A prime example is ‘B 54’ – what at first sounds like dumb shouting turns out to be a remarkably well-told, if bizarre, story of childhood rebellion (“See we’re a gang man, / We’ve made some plans and / Well you’re not in them”). Equally, although the arrangements are simple, XX Teens are musically diverse and talented lot, mastering everything from the dark, baritone sax melody of ‘Ba (Ba-Ba Ba)’ to the electronica interludes of ‘Onkawara’.

Though it isn’t for everyone, XX Teens’ debut is a success; much like classic comedy show The Goons, it proves that in the hands of intelligent folk, stupidity can be sublime.