Monday, April 16, 2012

Teenage Dog

I was at a house party somewhere in Austin ca. 2003.  Or was it 2005?  No, 2004.  Some band called Teenage Dog was playing.  They were a pretty decent indie rock band.  It wasn't any kind of religious experience, but I felt compelled enough to watch them and got their CD (though I may have gotten it years later).

For legal reasons, I'm not posting every song.
01 AJ Hidell  This is probably the best song about Lee Harvey Oswald from the last decade.
04 Black President  Oddly prophetic as this song came out in 2004.
07 Hong Kong Chinese
After the show, the bassist came up to me and asked when my band - the Ultimate Dragons - were playing again.  I don't remember if I knew.

A few years later, said bassist started temping at my work.  We became friends out of mutual respect for each others' bands.  She said she had started a new band called Yellow Fever, so I went to see them at Carousel Lounge.  They were a little more minimalist than Teenage Dog and (in my opinion) a bit better.  The trio consisted of the bassist of Teenage Dog (Isabel) on guitar/vocals, a girl from that band I didn't like the Carrots (Jennifer) on other guitar/vocals, and I think the guitarist of Teenage Dog on drums.  Or drum rather, as I think he only really played the snare drum.  They had a great chemistry - especially in the vocal department.  Jennifer had the smooth mid-range, and Isabel had the sparkling highs.  It worked. 
All was well for the next couple of months.  Yellow Fever started getting more and better shows to bigger crowds.  Maybe 6 months into their public career, Isabel moved from Austin to New York.  The remaining members were faced with 3 choices: break up; replace Isabel; or re-form the band with a new member, a new name, and new songs.  They went behind door number 2, which was the trickiest choice.  Their entire sound was based around the vocal harmonies.  The first replacement was a guy named Cole, but he didn't pan out, so they went on as a two-piece.  Which is fine and all, but the songwriting slowed way down and fans (which were increasing with the distribution of their EP) were given a watered-down version when they saw them live.  They continued playing under the name Yellow Fever and writing songs at a fraction of the pace and (in my opinion) a fraction of the quality.  This didn't stop the bigger and bigger shows, and the better and better reviews.  This review came out over 2 years after Isabel left the band.  Pitchfork Media even gave it a surprisingly high 7.2 review.  Again, that review came out over 2 years after the fact.  These are two of many articles and reviews that came out years after Isabel left Yellow Fever and they soldiered on as if nothing had changed.  The band kept playing shows and selling their album for at least 3 years in their diluted form, and for all I know they still are.  Did anyone buy John Oates' solo album
That said, the remaining members of Yellow Fever aren't entirely to blame.  Isabel moved away by choice - she wasn't kicked out.  The ethical thing to do would have been to have started over, but early in my career I'd probably have made the same mistake.  And yes, it was a mistake.  Judge for yourself:
So here's the thing.  There are people that create music because they HAVE to.  They hear songs in their heads that don't exist, and they can't rest until their angels are exorcised.  Sometimes, the chemistry between two artists creates a work that is more than the sum of their parts - and I'd give the benefit of the doubt to Yellow Fever that that's the case.  That may be unfairly generous to them, as Isabel has since started the band Moonmen on the Moon, Man and toured Europe as a solo artist since moving to New York.  Other people play music for less pure reasons, and history tends to judge them accordingly.


  1. I, in fact, bought one of John Oates' solo albums. Unfortunately, it was a joke gift for Sanjay.

  2. Did you get multiple copies? Because you gave me one too!

  3. Ha ha, probably. The album title was so great, I guess I had to share with multiple people.