Achingly hip band, on achingly hip label release monstrously fun debut

Released Feb 10th, 2015 via Team Love / By Henry Bainbridge
QUARTERBACKS – QUARTERBACKS  (Team Love Records) The back-story of this record reads like a hackneyed indie film pitch. Dean Engle is a resident of an upstate New York college-town. He works at the local record shop, playing his songs in local basements until critically acclaimed songwriter Conor Oberst moves his Team Love record label out of New York City and into Engle’s home town of New Platz. Bonding over a love of Welsh post-punk group Young Marble Giants we fast forward two years and Team Love have just released Engle and friends debut full-length as QUARTERBACKS. All 22 minutes of shambling punk splendor.

With drawled themes of love, loss and mistakes backed by RAGGED playing this records firmly positions itself within the remit of ‘slacker rock’, which is perhaps the most misleading genre description in popular music. Despite what any lyrics or production quality may profess, anyone who can a band together to rehearse, gig and record an album together has seriously got their shit together.

And that’s what makes this album so good. They get it. What is so vibrant and exciting is that it is unapologetic in its haste, simplicity and arrangement. There is no middle ground. They get it, got it and did it. You can write smart, or write fun, or write for style. Never try to cross those boundaries; you are unlikely to be Neil Young. Blur said boundaries and you ride dangerously close to the chasm of witless ballbagery inhabited by Incubus. Which is clearly unacceptable.

Now, not every three-chord band of catchy young punks deserves Ramones comparisons (at worst it’s damn lazy and at best it’s a endorsement of dubious stature), however it has the spirit. That spirit. We’re going tell you how we feel and you’re going to enjoy trying to keep up with it. Didn’t get it? Too late buster, we’re halfway through the next one. Not that Joey and co would be heard alive offering the fragility on show in 'Weekend' or 'Knicks'. The latter is a perfect 56-second slice of young friendship amongst failing relationships; it needn’t be a second longer because the point has been made.

The pace and brevity of these tracks make it quite a job to unpack a track-by-track here and now. No doubt there’s plenty of 90’s/00’s punk, indie and pop at play but that’s not really a helpful observation because the record seems more about embracing a moment in life than paying homage to musical heroes. Take five minutes to give this a listen, I insist. It’s the spirited sound of being alive.