Date: Fall 2002
Author: Bob Powers
Publication: NY Press Music, Volume 15, Issue 41 Headline:
Tegan and Sara are 22-year-old twin sisters from Canada, which is way hot (the Canada part). On their album cover, they look all gnomish teenage suicide with blonde streaks in jet-black hair and scary eyeballs that seem to say, "Happy people are retarded," but you can tell they're probably real cute too. Especially if they had a crush on you. Their folky guitar pop has been earning them a growing fan base, along with their opening gigs with Rufus Wainwright and Ryan Adams, among other contributors to the Starbucks" CD series.
They write hooks that own your head for days whether you like it or not. On their second record, If It Was You (Vapor/Sanctuary), they go angry, then pretty, then it'll be two cute chicks jumping up and down shouting out a chorus that makes you think maybe mean people really do suck.
It's spoon-fed sugar. It feels like they're lining up every pop song convention one after the other, doing all the shit that makes you say, "Oh yeah, I love it when chicks sing like that." They'll growl, then they'll croon, then they'll do that fake-bluesy Jewel bullshit. They'll do that thing chicks do overtop an acoustic guitar line that makes people call chick-singers "soulful." Then they're just two cute chicks jumping up and down again shouting out a chorus that makes you think maybe racism really does suck.
Not that they write lyrics about mean people or racism. Their lyrics are about boys. They all address a boy named "You." The best on the record is "I Hear Noises," first because it includes the line, "And I will not, will not, will not let you drink yourself alone," a sentiment more girls should learn to echo. Second because it sounds like Sinead's "Emperor's New Clothes," which still rules. Also, I'm not sure which one sings it, but she sings it kind of like she's hungover from some pills or something. Even the vowels are slurred. It's an interesting step away from the growl-croon-shout pattern throughout the rest of the tracks. The other tracks veer from born-for-radio Alanis-type stuff like "Underwater" to midwifed-for-Lilith Fair stuff like "Living Room," Tegan's rather obsessive account of how her neighbors are living.
I checked out their website and was overjoyed to find them all dolled up in their publicity stills to look like Rachael Leigh Cook in Josie and the Pussycats. Of course, I would've settled for Rachael Leigh Cook in AntiTrust. Or Rachael Leigh Cook in a department store surveillance-camera videotape. I just have a weak spot for little tiny girls with big Bambi eyes. I guess I dig porcelain dolls that can walk around and blush. Anyway, it had me looking forward to the show later that evening.
When I arrived at the Mercury Lounge, I was startled to find the room was crawling with lesbians. There were dykes of all flavors as far as the eye could see. Round, tanktopped dykes and dykes in fuzzy cardigan sweaters. Dykes with spiked hair and dykes with cornrows and dykes with big, clumpy manes. Skinhead dykes with big, angry breasts and dykes with their hands on another dyke's ass. Dykes in doorways, and friendly dykes who might not be dykes but trust me they're dykes. They were all so adorable as they waited for their heartthrobs to come out and sing to them. Except for the round skinhead dyke who barked, "'Scuse me!" at my back. Perhaps she was nervous about carrying those two pints. Or perhaps she just doesn't like having to take the single half-step to the right that would've let her pass without startling me so. That's rock 'n' roll.
Tegan and Sara came out onstage and I immediately chose Sara, though Tegan is far cuter. But Tegan is far cuter than everybody. The plumped-up cheekbones and the big Bambi eyes make a face so pretty it's unsettling. Sara is a bit taller and very pretty but not so pretty you'd feel like you have to offer her cash and wine all the time. Tegan would be a real cock, clearly.
It showed in their banter as well. Tegan tried to make funny stories out of her temper tantrums and whatnot, while Sara cheerily said stuff like, "Downstairs I had this claustrophobic, caught-in-a-coffin thing like I was gonna be there forever," before casually launching into a song called "Monday Monday Monday." Also, Sara looks up at the lights a lot when she sings, and it is good.
They put on a good show. It brought to mind all that alterna-pop from the early to mid-90s. Shit like Belly and Mazzy Star. Sara sounded like Hope Sandoval when she sang "Not Tonight." She made it much prettier than the album track. Tegan growled out the rocker "You Went Away" and sent the lesbians hopping on their toes and there were so many tanktops in the room I wondered who would have to sweep up all the pit hair.
There was a fair number of guys in the audience too. Guys like the one who stood to my left who wore his ponytail sticking up out of his turtleneck (damn!). The rest of the guys wore glasses and wondered if that dyke making out with that other dyke was a dyke.
Some of the lesbians would make cricket sounds with their mouths instead of applauding. It was kind of horrifying. Pondering the Sapphic fan base, I remembered seeing something about a Lilith Fair appearance in the presskit. Okay, there was a Lilith vibe, but they're not the Etheridge twins. I began to wonder if one or both of them were gay. Which led me to wonder, if you have two hot, twin sisters and they're both lesbians, would they fuck constantly or would they have to go to work sometimes? It seems like they should be able to get some kind of funding.
Near the end of the show, they mentioned they'd be playing NYU and some NYU lesbians let out a cheer and some cricket chirps. I silently wished the band good luck. I went to NYU and the lesbians there are no picnic, lemme tell you. Tegan and Sara closed the show with an argument over what to play last. Sara won and they played a non-album track, "Come on Kids," which had a chorus that sent everyone bouncing to the merch table to get their pictures taken with Tegan.
On my way out I saw two round lesbians, bald as Yul Brynner, with their arms around Tegan waiting for the camera to flash. And I was once more struck by just how fucking adorable Tegan is. I stared for a moment. Then I saw the lesbians and gentle boys in line for pictures staring daggers at me as if they thought I might try to butt in front of them. I got the hell out of there.