Date: January 25, 2005
Author: Marc Hogan
Publication: Pitchfork
Headline: Tegan and Sara - So Jealous - Rating: 3.4
Great pop songs should be more than the sum of a few entertaining parts. So much "pop/rock" of the past 10 years studies the Dave Matthews songwriting handbook: Cram as many marketable hooks as possible into three minutes, coherence be damned. Thus when Rob Thomas and Santana teamed up for "Smooth", you may not have felt anything, but you probably can still hum one of its cotton candy fragments.

Canadian power-pop duo Tegan and Sara take a similar approach, tossing around seemingly unrelated, radio-ready banalities over predictable power chords throughout their latest LP, So Jealous. There's really no reason why these identical twins shouldn't be huge. Their songs fuse Ashlee Simpson mall-punk with the retro 80s fetish of former tourmate Ryan Adams' recent high-profile stinker.

Still, I can't spare So Jealous the critical scalpel just because it's inexplicably below the mainstream radar. Co-producers John Collins (New Pornographers) and David Carswell (Smugglers) are no excuse, either. Collins and Carswell helped turn Tegan and Sara's early Lilith Fair folk into Alanis Morissette-style pop/rock on 2002's If It Was You, and their latest work takes the transformation a step further, incorporating some trendy new-wave influences. Former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp even takes a break from his recent Mark Hollis-tinged solo work to turn in some vintage Rentals synth lines. No matter, because the over-compression so common in self-consciously commercial rock these days renders each instrument as nuanced as Hannity & Colmes.

The first single from So Jealous, "Walking With a Ghost", sounds like one of those dummy mp3s major labels post on KaZaA to fool unsuspecting music lovers, where the first 10 seconds loop for five minutes. Remember when you thought "House of Jealous Lovers" was instrumental? "Walking With a Ghost" repeats three or four mundane phrases-- particularly "out of my mind"-- dozens of times in two-and-a-half-minutes, all over the same jerky, studio-polished guitar chords. I suppose it's almost as catchy as the latest McDonalds jingle, but it's also utterly boring.

The album's best song is the energetic "Speak Slow", with its peppy "ah-ah" chorus. But even that hook wears out its welcome by the seventh or eighth go-round. Tegan and Sara are lauded for their lyrics, but languorous ballad "Fix You Up" touches on boy-band terrain: "This love is all I have to give." I save my most mordant chuckles for the song that transposes the riff from Cat Power's "Free": "We Didn't Do It for the Money". Protesting a little much, aren't we?