Up until this point, there has only been one band to get me to break the self-identifier exclusion rule that Heartbreaking Bravery is normally held to- but when something as monumental as Technicolor Teeth‘s Can You Get Me Out of Hell tour-only tape comes along, it’s worth throwing caution to the wind. Another reason I’m allowing myself the small indulgences of first person narrative is that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of watching evolve since they formed (which was back when Harlequin Kid, a band that featured two Technicolor Teeth members, was still going strong). After one practice, the band had “Station Wagon” to their name and not much else- but that song was strong enough to put me on notice and ensured my attention.
At one of their first shows, guitarist Zacc Baehman blew a fuse while tuning and it took a good ten minutes for everything to get reset. It was one of those weirdly thrilling moments that preceded an even stranger set, with the volume pushed to punishing levels throughout. Back then, Colin Wilde (who appears on the covers of both Teenage Pagans and Can You Keep Me Out of Hell) was still drumming for the band after original drummer Dan Wolfe bowed out and their current drummer- Tenement‘s Amos Pitsch- was on tour. A few very strong 7″ records, a couple of official releases for Teenage Pagans through a few different labels, an inclusion on the incredible Beyond Inversion compilation, and a whole ton of shows later, the band’s now set to unleash the staggeringly brilliant Can You Keep Me Out of Hell cassette, which will only be available to purchase directly from the band on their March tour (track them down at SXSW and pick one up).
Can You Keep Me Out of Hell is a major step forward for the band in almost every way imaginable (an odd feat considering it’s ostensibly a compilation of past 7″ releases with new material tacked on); it’s the most fully-realized version of their shoegaze-meets-nightmare pop aesthetic, both the songwriting from bassist/vocalist Matt Stranger and in-house production are stronger than they’ve ever been, and the pacing is nothing short of extraordinary for this ultimately being a collection of new and previously-released tracks. There are moments of genuinely startling inventiveness littered all over Can You Keep Me Out of Hell as well, each one working as well as the last. It doesn’t just extend to a reliance on one instrument either, whether it’s the hauntingly minimal organ and echoing bells that provide “My Darkest Love” its foreboding atmosphere or the vocal manipulation that leads “Nocturnal Remission” in its descent to nightmarish chaos to provide that song its third quarter, Technicolor Teeth infused this release with almost everything they’ve got and as a result wound up surpassing even the loftiest expectations.
As for the already-released material, “Sage”, “Vaporous”, “Stolen Things and the Starving Man”, “Blood Pool”, and “Drips”, they all hold up as well as ever- only they’re given extra life surrounded by the new material. Everything here works as complement to everything that surrounds it, never once falling into staid territory. Baehman, Stranger, and Pitsch are all playing at the top of their respective games and seem to be pushing each other to greater heights with this project. Ultimately, Can You Keep Me Out of Hell sees the band clicking at the right time, in all the right ways. That’s likely one of the reasons they’ve caught the attention of the likes of Impose and Pitchfork, who have undoubtedly boosted the band’s profile in the past few weeks. Their continued ascension has been surprisingly rewarding to watch unfold and leaves me with this thought; it’s about damn time.
Listen to Can You Keep Me Out of Hell below and don’t lose track of this band- they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeve that should prove they’re far from done.