Aaliyah once said “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” I would tend to agree… well, at least for horizontal relationships. Fandom, however, is an entirely different animal. There’s just something creepy about the notion of heroicising people who are younger than me. I mean, aren’t you creeped out by the guys in their forties who follow twentysomething singer/songstresses around clubs with tote bags full of merch to be signed? Or balding individuals who know all of the lyrics to Paramore’s catalogue? And have you ever stopped to consider how unsettling it is the number of middle-aged men whose leisure time is almost entirely dedicated to watching young boys mount each other on the college football field? So I realize these examples are extreme (if you don’t think so, you may want to take a good, hard look at your own hobbies), but I just can’t shake this idea that I should be looking up to people who are older than me.
A younger, more naïve self believed this to be a real possibility. Looking back, I realize what a fool I was. I mean, it’s not as if a peak of brilliance or creativity has ever struck an artist at 40. And if I was going to have any idea of the current pulse of the music industry and serve as a commentator, I couldn’t just keep rehashing how great Belle & Sebastian and The Smiths are. So, at some point, I was going to need to face this fear.
So who is it that converted me? Who is it that smacked me in the face and said “Get Over It!!!”? It was Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet. I was 21 and they were all about 19. Okay, they didn’t smack me in the face in the literal sense of the phrase (although Jemina Pearl has physically dragged me across the floor of a small handful of venues and I have flown head-first into their bass drum once, as was par for a BYOP show). Anyone who has the tits to grab me by the throat and scream “Give me everything. I’ll break up your limbs and I’ll put you in a trunk and take you around the world” is more than worthy of my attention, whether they’re my senior or not. But I promised that this was a one time thing and that it wouldn’t become a habit.
However, once my cherry was popped, it just got easier and easier to indulge in the work of people born post October 14, 1984. There was The Horrors and then Crystal Castles and then Cults… But I still had some shame. I mean, it’s not like I would listen to a band the same age as my students… no matter how cool their haircuts were.
Well, all of my rules were shattered this summer with the release of Razika’s debut album, Program 91 (out August 16th on Smalltown Supersound). Razika are four girls who started a punk band at age fourteen and, over the next several years leading up to their debut LP, developed a more rhythmic and organic take on the genre, inspired heavily by Jamaican Reggae. Yes, we have all heard this story before. However, this group of atypical girls, hailing from Norway, claim to have barely listened to The Slits. Although their story (and many aspects of their sound) do bear an almost uncanny resemblance to that of Ari Up’s clan, their debut record is also imbued with bits of Twee, Post-Punk, and 60s girl groups that would make them as likely to share a stage with Kate Nash as to take that of the 100 Club. Program 91 is both coyly whimsical and playfully bratty, making it the best punk album for summertime since BYOP’s debut. So do I feel a little creepy getting my musical jollies from four 19-year-old girls? Well, yeah, but they’re totally worth the guilt.
*This article was written in mid-July and intended to be published in a local music rag, which was to hit the streets on August 1st. However, the latest issue of said publication is yet to hit the streets and the editor of said publication has not responded to E-mails throughout the course of this month. So I apologize that it is not as timely as it was planned to be.