Date: September 2004
Author: Mairead Case
TEGAN AND SARA
Once, when I was nineteen, Tegan and Sara played in a dusty red theatre with seats and a snack bar. Their manager's band, Jets Overhead, opened, and the audience included smoking butches, a girl in a lemon pillbox hat, and a lady with a girlfriend and pink nails. After the show, she tapped my shoulder to ask if she could tuck the tag into my t-shirt.
It's not unusual for a fan to want to mirror her favorite songs. If she didn't, Hot Topic might as well be a lemonade stand. Like their audiences, then, Tegan and Sara Quin walk the line between indie darling and darkening punk, squeeze and slap, second period lunch and the lot behind the 7-11. The twin sisters' fourth and newest album, So Jealous, is stuffed with exhaustion, exhilaration, and that sweet, sweet ache of love. It is also fourteen songs, forty-five minutes.
Here, I suppose I should mention that many of the argyle-cat's-eye types sneer at these two. They lost weight when they grew popular, Tegan lemminged out and got a labret, and further, some of her lyrics are pure cheese. "Bright/Like the stars above me?!"
It's true that So Jealous will not reveal your future, no matter how much you'd like it to. It is not as textbook good as Morrison, Magnum, or Tweedy, but -- and to bastardize Hornby -- it takes a long time to get into Goo, and I've already listened to "You Wouldn't Like Me" five times today. Actually, it was six.
Because even if one song does blend into another (WWF Smackdown: So Jealous' "We Didn't Do It" v. This Business of Art's "Hype"), we're hardly talking guilty pleasure. It's not vegans-in-the-McDonald's-line, just a quick kiss with the boyfriend, nevermind the pastrami sub a minute-and-a-half gone. It's the snap of the guitar, the vocal corkscrew curdle, the ballsily repetitive modulation. The girls' voices are beautifully froggy, with an occasional harmony deep enough to make your ears pulse. Plus, they are unafraid to add melancholy to a song, to layer Moog with drumroll and bandwagon keyboard: "I wash the windows outside/In hopes that the glare will bring you around."
The Quins claim that this is the most personal of their four albums. I cannot judge this. What I can say, however, is that "I Bet It Stung" is like diving into a pool; "Where Does the Good Go?" feels like Coke, drank too quickly on purpose; and "Fix You Up" grows on you like gas station coffee. Sometimes, the best is the simplest, and besides -- even your own heartbeat is second verse, same as the first. When Tegan steps up and asks you to look her in the eye, say that no love is like our love, you might just as well be Johnny and June.
Soon, you too will crave the bright comfort of the whole.
Bring on the road trips.