The August Teens; March 12, 2010; High Noon Saloon
Theoretically it had to happen. As a band, you can only say you are putting out a CD for so long before you have to actually put out a CD. The August Teens had stretched that window about as far as they could. The last time we saw them singer/songwriter/guitarist Dan Hardgrove had told us that he was using his paid sabbatical from his day job at Epic to finish it. Not what I would have done when they pay for your flight and lodging if you go to a country you haven’t been to before, but I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him.
True to his word, A Kiss in Wisconsin, the debut release from the August Teens, was available for purchase tonight. An impressive crowd, which included Hargrove’s mother for the first time, turned out for the momentous occasion. She confessed that she probably hadn’t seen him play in ten years (so I’m guessing that would be right around the time the August Teens got together). Without a second band on the bill, they had the night to themselves. For their first set they followed CD release show protocol and played the disc in order. Well, almost. “We missed one,” Hardgrove confessed halfway through, smiling, “we have to go back.” With banter, the set was only about 45 minutes long, which makes perfect sense for a CD made up of fourteen (technically thirteen with a reprise, what is this, a Broadway musical?) power pop songs (which means none of them run more than a few seconds over three minutes). The title track makes a grand finish to this collection of songs about girls, whether named or unnamed.
There are the titular girls, “Sweet Elaine,” “There is No Amber Klein” and “Sheila Doesn’t Want Me” (“It’s true, she didn’t,” Hardgrove claimed after introducing the song), and then there are the ones that go nameless, which is pretty much every other song. No really, it’s true, all the songs are all about girls except for the financial preparedness lesson “Pocket Change.” Even the puzzling “Pizza in Your Heart,” which asks, “Are there donuts in your soul? Or is there just a hole,” and claims “I hope your tacos are pretty smart,” is about a girl. Um, I think. Or maybe it just resulted from a really bad case of the munchies. Strangely enough for a band that does the power pop so well, the best song on the record may be “All the Elements.” A slow (relative to the rest of the record) lament about a girl who seems perfect but yet somehow isn’t the one, its charm is its sincerity.
The second set consisted of songs not on the record, and before each song they would announce whether it would be on the next one or the third record. I happen to know that Epic gives sabbaticals every five years, so I wouldn’t expect it before then. Of all of these, “Ten Years Older,” about a crush on an older woman, may be the one I wish would have made this cut. Hardgrove on the other hand seems partial to another, “I don’t like picking a favorite, but I think this one is my favorite.” The August Teens always look like they are having more fun than any other band, but that seemed even more obvious tonight. They deserved to have a good time, not only did they finally get that debut CD monkey off their backs, but they also had a good crowd there to celebrate with.