Becoming Real Forever
Holy shit, have I been out of it! As mentioned in the previous post (It’s Beginning to and Back Again), I’ve been on autopilot for a few years with regards to keeping up with music, but, thanks to Amber Crain’s amazing When the Sun Hits blog and internet radio show on DKFM, I got clued in to Tender Age just in time for their debut album’s release and I am thankful. Tender Age are from Portland too, so they’ve been right under my nose this entire time.
This young five piece apparently recorded this album in a shack over at the coast, in Seaside. Having grown up on the Oregon coast, I can just imagine how out of place their squealing guitar feedback and extreme dissonance must have been, but at the same time, it somehow makes perfect sense. I have a distinct memory of riding in a car crammed full of high school classmates heading southbound on Highway 101 on a school night in the late 80s to attend an art opening at the Cultural Center in Newport. Everyone in the car had a piece in the show, but me. I was, and still am, the eternal supporter (the bridesmaid, the caddie, the cling-on, the groupie) of the arts – never the artist. Along the way, we were listening to Sonic Youth’s brand new Daydream Nation, which I had dubbed for my old friend Ian, who was driving. I distinctly remember gazing out over the Pacific Ocean at sunset on the way up the hill of Cape Foulweather with a huge grin on my face taking in the stunning view as the middle part of “Silver Rocket” went about destroying the car’s speakers. Becoming Real Forever reminds me of this moment.
From what I’ve seen, Tender Age sometimes get labeled with the “shoegaze” tag, likely because of their liberal use of feedback to create some pretty intense soundscapes. They remind me more of the aforementioned Sonic Youth, or Dinosaur, or Pussy Galore school of rock and noise - something that would come out on SST, or Homestead Records – all influences on those early shoegaze bands. Plus, vocalist/guitarist, Tauna Leonardo employs a cool, otherworldly and disconnected Kim Gordon style spoken word approach on songs like “Olives Choice,” “Dark Circles,” and the first half of the epic “Cellphone Tower.” Tender Age are excellent when it comes to using three guitars (Leonardo, Elaina Tardif, and Christopher Klarer!!!) to create feedback which invigorate their songs with chaos. The searing presence of the noise gives their songs an urgency and the feeling that the entire procedure might run off the rails at any moment. It’s exciting!
It doesn’t hurt that the opening song, “Don’t Mind,” is an addictive pop song buried within a Psychocandy-era Jesus and Mary Chain wall of screeches, a ramshackle looseness, and a deep bassline that booms and moans like a really strange harbor buoy that’s way too near for comfort. I find myself listening to it over and over. When drummer, Olives, leans into the hi-hat during the bridge between the chorus and the second verse, I feel like an itch is being scratched. That crazy low sonic boom bass, creatively guided by Bryan Robertson, guides the similar “Isn’t Real” as well. The trudging and heavy “Lowers” leaves behind a trail of wreckage in its wake, along with a surprising sing-along vocal melody in the chorus. The funky shuffle of “Deluxe” is the oddball track of this bunch, but a welcome breath of fresh air, and a touch of needed variety – making it a standout. So too, the breathy acoustic ballad, “Nothing” that closes side one with a real touch of beauty.
Overall, Becoming Real Forever, seems to express a sentiment of feeling disconnected, disengaged, and separate from the rest of the world. This is a feeling I think a lot of us can identify with in this age where so many of us are overcrowded yet completed isolated. So much of what happens anymore does not seem real at all. There is a definite surrealism to their sound with all of the noises coming at you from everywhere, as well as decay and destruction. They build somewhat basic rock song foundations and then take sledge and jack hammers to these structures and present the remains as the finished product. Have you ever wondered how an old section of sidewalk can become so broken up over time, when it is made out of concrete – something so indestructible? Tender Age might have been there blasting away just before you arrived. I highly recommend this album.
Tender Age "Isn't Real"