Teenage Halloween is a power pop group that has been shaking up the New Jersey DIY punk scene. The band features blistering rock with grand hooks and great payoffs. They’ve recently released their exciting self-titled LP under Don Giovanni records.
The band identifies as a mostly queer group, and the themes of growing up as an outcast in the current socio-political climate has charged these songs with anger that seeps through every power chord and hook-filled melody. Their lyrics reflect the fear, existentialism and the struggles of expressing your own gender identity, as well as revolting against the institutions that constantly infringe upon their freedom to do so. An idea perfectly suited for punk, if there ever was one.
Their overall sound is as large as these webs of emotion. The guitar parts are as grandiose as they are catchy, with saxophone and keyboard parts providing embellishment. Founder Luke Henderiks’ loud and raspy vocals elevate all the accompanying noise, and serves as the driver of all these songs. The album opens with “Stationary” which lashes out at toxicity in an anthemic rage. “Holes” sheds light on the struggles of being a closeted individual, where one is always trying to find a way to escape: “I wanna dig these holes / Deeper than hell / Sulking alone.”
These songs also touch on other issues such as existentialism and self-doubt. The band’s admirable willingness to be open about their vulnerabilities makes them especially easy to connect with. The Beach Boy-esque catchy melodies of “Drown” is almost flipped by its dour subject matter, one that explores inadequacy, anxiety and the struggle to break past them. “Summer Money” is about trying to find a sustainable income in an increasingly suffocating capitalistic society.
The highlights of this album are its centerpieces, where the band paces its songs to give space for each instrument. The walls of guitar noise takes a step back for stellar riff work and melodic breakdowns for the keys and sax. “Sweat” wrestles with the idea of loving someone as the world is falling into chaos. “Clarity” is a coming of age story with a strong theme of liberation: “I grew up with horrible people / Giving horrible advice / All my ancestors are self important / And learning might just bring / Clarity”.
Teenage Halloween not only provides great rock music, they also represent a group that’s still being misunderstood by a large part of society. In this album we see their struggles and pleas, and hopefully more people will listen.