I’m always interested in bands that expand the definition of pop. There are countless indie rock and emo bands that at their very core, beneath distorted guitars, are writing good pop songs. Athens, GA’s Needle Teeth’s have just released their first EP, and they are already purveyors of angsty, melody-heavy pop songs that are sure to be bouncing around your head for days. If there’s an intersection of indie rock and twinkly emo, Needle Teeth’s Will Morris and Erin Cribbs find themselves perfectly in the center lane. Expiration Date sounds like Dinosaur Jr. and Cap’n Jazz had a child that was a little more soft-spoken. Needle Teeth’s short songs are perfect pre-Summer jams.
Expiration Date starts off with “Play This Song to Die Instantly,” which features shimmering leads alongside chunky, tremolo-picked chords. The intro riff is perfectly mathy, but not lifeless. Some math rock riffs can be so technical that they sound almost inhuman. Needle Teeth manages to pull off complicated riffs while still letting the songs breathe. It’s a breakup song, but perhaps more energetic and visceral than most. Morris sings, “Every time I wake up it’s dark outside half a year later I’m still toeing the line / And when I see you I don’t rewind but I remember when you were a good friend of mine.” In these two lines, Morris talks about the passage of time, the feelings that linger, and the loss of a good friend. It’s a testament to the lyrical skill of budding songwriters.
“Again Whatever” features an absolutely infectious, bouncy riff. You will find yourself bouncing your head up-and-down or from side-to-side almost instantly. “…And Now The Weather” and “Quit Yr Job” feels like No Pocky For Kitty era Superchunk. Both songs are fast, a little bit aggressive, but endlessly melodic. Likewise, they both are concerned with the boredom and monotony that comes with living and working in your 20s.
“Quit Yr Job” opens with the lines, “It’s been a tough couple of years you could say / Makes you think about getting out or about running away / But where would I go and how do you pay.” This is the experience most of us find ourselves in; wanting to change our lives, but not knowing how. Plus, the outro to “Quit Yr Job” features the gnarliest riffing on the EP.
The album’s final song, “Animal House, Part 2,” is an absolutely groovy jam. With the plodding drums and palm-muted chords in the verses, it’s an anthem about life in the 2010s, and the crippling weight of political nightmares, dead-end jobs, and college debt. Morris says, “And I can hear you call from a mile under my bed I’ll watch the greatest minds of my generation die in debt.” At the end of the song, there’s a minute long jam. It contains the most heartfelt performances of the short album, with snare drums cracking, cymbals crashing, and guitar octaves wailing.
What Morris and Cribbs have managed to do is to write an EP about stagnation that is anything but. Lyrically, it’s about the harsh realities of simply existing. Breakups, meaningless work, and isolation are painful but ever-present parts of our lives. Yet, Needleteeth’s music is anything but stagnant. It’s gritty and full of movement, whether it’s fast snare rolls or mathy guitar riffs. It’s almost as if Needle Teeth is telling us everything sucks, but it’s all okay at the same time.