Published Mar 30, 2016In many ways, getting a return statement from Teen Suicide is amazing in and of itself; their 2013 breakup seemed destined to send the band into cult status, known by only a few but beloved by them all. A reunion album seemed rather unlikely given bandleader Sam Ray's looming interest in his Julia Brown and Ricky Eat Acid projects. So the Baltimore band's sigh-of-relief new double-album,"It's the Big Joyous Celebration, Let's Stir the Honeypot", comes with a question: How best to update, revise and tie up their tumultuous history in one single gesture?
As it turns out, that's not an easy thing to sum up. Make no mistake; Joyous Celebration is a dense, ambitious listen. With a track list boasting 26 tracks and a runtime of over an hour, its best accomplishment is avoiding feeling overstuffed. It comes across something like an audio collage or a beat tape, stitched together and casually jumping all over the place from style to style: collegiate indie rock, country, vocoder experiments and folk all make their appearances here.
Very few of the rough edges that defined Teen Suicide's earlier material — notably their first album i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body and EPs such as waste yrself or DC Snuff Film — remain. Yet the lo-fi aesthetic endures here; after pushing the limits of home recording in Julia Brown and Ricky Eat Acid to their proverbial limits, Ray returns to Teen Suicide without that intent in mind, so while a track like "Alex" is an intriguing suggestion of what would happen if the band tried to clean up their sound, it's a relief to find that the rest of their material doesn't share those aspirations.
Given Ray's prior devoted focus to Julia Brown and Ricky Eat Acid, it's fascinating how much those projects seem to inform the approach of the reformed Teen Suicide. Joyous Celebration takes Julia Brown's bedroom indie pop mixtape aesthetic, found on previous album An Abundance of Strawberries, and blows it up into monstrous proportions. Ray's production abilities inform even the outlier tracks, as the house leanings of "The Stomach of the Earth" wouldn't feel out of place on a Ricky Eat Acid record, but it stills feels perfectly at home here, too.
Joyous Celebration feels like the last note on an intimate conversation both vibrant and imaginative, a wonderful, endearing mess of a record that pulls from all of the band's influences and brings it together in a patchwork without coming across like a huge departure from their established sound. It's a potent celebration of their past work and a capable endnote to the band's career, whether it truly is the their final release or not. (Run For Cover)