My Techno Show
an album review for Peach Pit's 'You and Your Friends' by Ahmad Khazali
Ah, who would have guessed, an Indie Pop/Rock band from Vancouver, Canada. This favorite band of mine forms the concord between lead guitarist Chris Vanderkooy, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Neil Smith, drummer Mikey Pascuzzi, and bassist Peter Wilton.
Peach Pit was created four years ago in the basement of Chris’s moms’ old home, which he moved into at the time. Their combination of folk rich vocals, garage indie rock solos, and broken candy apple Fender Telecasters make up the perfect vigor for a Saturday night home alone lay-in-bed type of evening or a scream at the top of your lungs Tuesday afternoon on your way to your friend’s house, with a box of takeout. With their sophomore album, ‘You and Your Friends’ being released in April of 2020, a real stamp has been placed on their originality when it comes to songwriting, lyrical play, narration, and high hat patterns… Evident through their EP, ‘Sweet FA’ (2018), debut album, ‘Being So Normal’ (2018) and latest release.
Despite this review being of ‘You and Your Friends’, I admit to not being disciplined enough to stay within that path and will be relating ideas with tracks on previous records with no shame.
Traditionally, sophomore albums within the Indie Pop/Rock genre are nerve racking in the sense that it could either catapult into mainstream media or live in the maze realm that feels like a despairing cave of undiscovered art (but in a cool way). Some are freed into the ecosphere of evening talk shows and dazzling lights, while others embrace the hopelessness of their melodies. In terms of its path, it seems to have secured a fanbase of people loyal to the genre, and cross play with fans of bands like Lunar Vacation, Vansire, Hippo Campus, and The Strokes, among others. What jumps out in Peach Pit’s music is the ability to narrate a story and somehow being able to call it a song, or music. You might find that much of the meaning behind these lyrics lies in the life experiences of Chris and Neil... wanting to conquer the mess that is their lives but sabotaging themselves to maintain self-given chaotic identities.
In their debut album, ‘Being So Normal’, stories are told through specific moments in time that are narrated in a way which makes us, the listeners, spectators. In each of these little stories, a moment in time is described with sketches of conversations between two people and ends with the transfer of consciousness to the character (either Neil or Chris) reacting to the moment in time which was just depicted. “Back at Patrick Park – We stood in the dark” being the setting, “Theres something dark hanging over my head – I’m seventeen don’t hold your breath.” Being Neil’s ‘post scenario thought process’.
‘Being So Normal’ feels very angsty and meta in a way that causes these self-actualizations to seem detached from reality, as though every little situation is either the worst thing that could ever happen to me or the best experience of my life. Its subjects are limited to innocent experiences of teenagers in Vancouver through the 2010’s and explores the coming-of-age longing for comfort in a world of confusion and anguish.
‘You and Your Friends’ is a vastly different album compared to their first. It dives into themes that are foreign to their previous lives, as if removing the blanket of blissful ignorance away from Neil and Chris. Peach Pit were able to explore new sounds and rewrite the literature of music that ‘fits’ in the traditional sense. Chord progressions and the use of psychedelic melodies behind the rhythm guitar is distinctive (confusingly not abiding by the conventional ‘verse 1, verse 2, chorus’ formula) and simply should not work in music theory, or sound good… but it does.
The most important and clear factor of this album is the use of characters (some named, some unnamed) that play a role, have arcs, and affect Neil and Chris in their own ways. It pays respects to (and slashes) settings and places in Neil’s and Chris’s lives which are connected and completed in different songs, where you will find that a resolution or a concluding self-reflective statement or thought process is not made until you reach another portion of the album. For example, ‘Shampoo Bottles’ continued into ‘Thursday’.
Throughout the record, we meet characters like Chuckie, Ali, Camilla, Emily, Hannah and more. Each of them is represented as though the listener is already part of the group and are not ‘introduced’ to us in a ‘listener, meet Chuckie. Chuckie, meet listener’ type of way. Instead, we meet them mid-scenario, like we mistakenly entered a room we shouldn’t have and were eavesdropping into not only the picture, but the minds of Neil and Chris once the self-reflective cycle of thoughts begin.
For instance, in ‘Black Licorice’ Neil says in his drunken state “Chuckie knows he’ll have to carry me home and he’ll say, ‘that’s fine’.” Continuing, “But he’s my baby – he wont mind”. The record seems to be a love letter and a nasty hate message to ‘Neil and Chris’s Friends/Lovers’ at the same time.
Characters are not described as much as they are captured through actions in each of these stories, which is greatly different to the way stories were depicted in the first album. Some tracks are targeted to the characters themselves, “What’s up with you? – Its never been like you to be back and begging” while others are conversational in an ancillary sense, where Neil or Chris are speaking directly to the listener or are in a cycle of thought “Watch her as she pirouettes – Watch her figure eight, with that style.” These overlapping tools of illustrating lyrics in a conversational style is journalistic and full of personality, something Peach Pit has always been able to utilize.
Yet, the difference between this album and their debut record, is the way in which it is painted. I picture the stories being told in ‘Being So Normal’ as though Neil or Chris describe a situation to a friend and ask for advice, or help. While ‘You and Your Friends’ seems to be a group, rather than an individual. Despite these differences, you will always be sure to count on the chorus to have a self-reflective thought process with a banging guitar solo coming up that gives you the time needed to absorb lessons learnt through these anecdotes. “I hate it – Holy fucking shit, its like I’m back at my old basement.”
As previously mentioned, their debut album was a teenage chronicle of anguish, but that is not the case with ‘You and Your Friends’. One of my favorite songs off the record, Shampoo Bottles, explores a subject that had me on my knees once the dots were connected in hindsight. At first glance, it seems to be a song of heartbreak that details the experience of Neil with an ex-girlfriend of his, where he explains “I've been leaving your shampoo bottles - Over in the corner there - Sittin' empty on the bathtub rail - Wishin' they could wash your hair” ostensibly showing us that Neil simply cannot let go of the belongings of his former lover, and cannot bring himself to toss them into the past, “Your cellphone charger's still hanging from the wall - Haven't chucked it all, like you'd think - Though you haven't been around in weeks” Later expressing “If I could've had it any other way - Then by now I would've chucked it out - But it seems to wanna stick around”.
Though it looks clear and concise, a quick turn of visceral language changes the tone of the music, “Ive been leaving you in radio silence” – “Waited long enough that I could never call you – Baby, how fucked is that?” In which Neil appears to be regretting something he had done so intensely (ignoring and not responding to her… ghosting and disappearing) that an image of him smelling her Shampoo Bottle unfolds and continues with the epiphany he had been leading us to. Why would Neil not be able to call this unnamed character when he could so easily pick up his phone and dial her number? In an immerging fashion, Neil describes the red Corolla she drives that would usually be “Parked out in the corner there – If it were yours there’d be some hippie bullshit – Hanging from the rear view mirror.” It now becomes clear that the day to day habits of Neil’s observations are not meeting his usual expectations, and he continues by explaining to the listeners that her red Corolla is dented up and down the doors as he “Never wanted to see it more” and once again emphasizes the fact that he left her in ‘radio silence’.
This is a story of Neil’s ex-girlfriend, who we had met earlier in the record (but is unnamed), and the unexpected car wreck she was a part of which tragically took her life away. In the usual self-reflective way we’ve come to know, Neil is in agony after he had left her for dead, being silent and disappearing without saying a word or conversing with her. Only to be told she died in a car wreck, and feelings of guilt destroy his capacity to feel comfortable in his own home, and induces an inability to throw her stuff away because he wants nothing more than to see her red Corolla, smell her hair, and use her “frickin’ trash” speed sticks, wishing he hadn’t left her in radio silence.
‘You and Your Friends’ is more than a teenage story about a group of guys with a pack of beers wrestling around. It is true and concrete, with a way of unifying the world of storytelling and the irrefutable need to be dancing around and singing as loudly as you can with friends. It creates joy and reveals sudden tears down your cheek without you realizing it… and will always be a story about, you guessed it… you and your friends.
Finally, it feels only fitting to end with a quote from my favorite song of Peach Pits’
“Love me tender like what keeps you well
My voice is back home while I'm in hell
Who's the ol' slew foot who took you from me?
Cried oh Private Presley, she sways like the trees.” – Private Presley, Peach Pit
Peace & Love <3 – Ahmad Khazali