Tegan And Sara
hat’s the difference between power pop and pop-rock? Pop-rock is rock music that’s accessible enough to be appreciated by anybody. Popular rock. Power pop is made by wimps who can’t claim they rock but are too defensive or non-engaging to simply call themselves pop (sometimes it’s the collector-maven fans that self-consciously throw this term onto a group—I’m sure Cheap Trick never appreciated it). Tegan and Sara, Canadian twins with nary a nutsack of delusion between them, should be considered pop-rock, but would be probably settle for the more cultish mantle. At least they won’t be called “Lilith shit” anymore.
With the help of producers John Collins and David Carswell, Tegan And Sara scrapped their early Ani-like sound for an emphasis on energetic sugar tunes on 2002’s If It Was You. The streamlined zoom and precision of So Jealous makes their previous work seem tentative by comparison—the confidence and the spirit that inspired the whoops and hollers found on their acoustic material remains even as they focus on more structured vocal hooks.
It’s tempting to dismiss them for their monomaniacal focus on matters of the heart (their bio claims that their label, Neil Young’s Vapor Records, demanded they sing about “something other than love”), but compared to the Cars, an obvious musical precedent, their songs feel brave and free of cool detachment. The closing ballad “I Can’t Take It” may confess heartbreak, but there’s spine and resolve underneath. It makes sense that Young, who patented this mix of thin skin and strong heart, would be their patron. It also makes sense when Cuomo confidant and head Rental Matt Sharp magically appears on the album, moog in hand.
While comparisons to the acoustic superstars of the late ‘90s are ridiculous, many of the tracks—especially “Downtown”, “I Bet It Stung” and “Take It Slow” are so infectious and worthy of radio play that I really wish the climate for female pop-rockers who don’t make an issue out of their virginity was more hospitable (though memories of Meredith Brooks and Poe are enough to make me complacent about the matter). Slap a Disney starlet or two on the cover and watch it go platinum fast. I guess I should be satisfied if fans of Canuck peers like New Pornographers (now THAT’S “power pop”) bother to accept this generous helping of handclaps and hurt into their hearts.
Reviewed by: Anthony Miccio
Reviewed on: 2004-09-24