Review: TV Girl – The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle
Published on May 29th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
San Diego duo Brad Petering and Trung Ngo charmed the ears off Rocksucker with their Benny and the Jetts EP, featuring as it did such joyous applications of classic ’60s pop songwriting to colourful hip-hop production, so we asked Petering this interview from last October if we could expect a full-length album any time soon.
He replied: “We will be doing a mixtape, but only in the sense that it will be given away for free. It’ll be as thought out as an album. Maybe more thought out. We have all these sample songs that we can’t release legally, so we’re gonna go all out with it and make it a sample-delic masterpiece in the vein of Paul’s Boutique or 3 Feet High and Rising, or at least as best as we can with a recording budget of exactly zero dollars.
“It’ll be something ambitious that will gain a cult following that will allow us to headline festivals when we need the money twenty years from now after we break up and reunite.”
Well, now that mixtape is here, and we’re delighted to report that it’s pretty much everything we hoped it would be – that is, a sprawling, endlessly listenable summer soundtrack. Proceedings get underway with the gently ooh-ing lead-in “Keep Me Distracted” before “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now” marks its territory as the first stonking, solid-gold pop nugget of a collection rich with them.
Like “Benny and the Jetts” and “Baby You Were There” before it, “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now” sounds like a divine hip-hop re-imagining of the kind of early ’60s standard that The Beatles might have covered, so sunny and funky while concealing about its person such acerbic lyrics as “Then I remembered that you’re a cancer to my soul” and “Take me to the mountain / Bring me to the temple / Spill my guts into the sacrificial vessel”. Already TV Girl have established their knack for whittling understated yet oh-so-infectious choruses out of the title refrain alone, while Ngo’s almost impossibly breezy vocal sounds so delicious alongside a set of string and horn samples to die for. Great start.
“Misery” (nothing to do with the Beatles song or Stephen King novel/film adaptation of the same name) introduces Petering’s wryer, more gravelly vocal, ensuring your affectionate attention from the get-go with a gorgeous “down down dee doobie doobie” sample, before the “Surfer Moon”-esque “It Evaporates” seals whichever manner of deal needing sealing with Ngo’s delivery of “Where does it go when love dries up? / It forms into clouds and rains on someone else / It drips off the fingertips and soaks into the clothes / It clogs up the gutters and ruins everyone’s shoes”. It’s sweet, but not too sweet – in fact it manages to sound incredibly cool without even an iota of pretentiousness, which is harder to achieve than it might sound.
The hypothetical hits keep on coming – there’s the sassy brass, scuzzy Petering vocal and driving hip-hop feel of “Mirror Mirror”, the washed-out synth pads vs twinkly glockenspiel of “Loneliness Can Be Demanding”, a brief instruction from Gonzo of The Muppets to turn the record over to side 2 and then the fizzy synth bassline and “For What It’s Worth” sample of “Loud and Clear”. Here Petering sings “Look at us now, aren’t we all so fabulously clever? / Don’t we all just have such witty things to say / Have you noticed how it all just blends together / And melts away?” – we have no idea who he’s referring to by “we”, but if they’re all as fabulously clever as TV Girl then somebody should be taking minutes of their every meeting.
As The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle goes on it gets easier for Rocksucker to play Spot the Sample – the floaty-light “TV in the Bedroom” throws in a snatch of “Alone Again Or” at its end, while “On the Fence” is based around the guitar lick from The Beatles’ version of “Anna (Go to Him)”, validating our impression of TV Girl as a post-modern take on the kind of songs that the Fab Four covered on their first two LPs.
“Sweaters” is suitably warm, and then “Jane’s Critique” presents us solely with an answer phone recording of Petering’s mother praising the “album”, citing the ensuing “The Artist” as her favourite track. Funnily enough, “The Artist” is perhaps Rocksucker’s least favourite track here – the mock innocence of its toy piano and clunky percussion works well, but lyrics like “I’m gonna move to San Diego and watch all the hip young artists struggle with their rent / Ooh, I’m gonna be one of them” feel out of place on account of their sardonic nature. It’s a playful swipe but does not strike as a fond one, although to be fair the juxtaposition of a sweet, sing-song melody with a sparse production does sound somehow like the misguided, perhaps even vacuous idealism being lampooned.
Oh, and Petering sounds a lot like Stephen Malkmus when he sings the line “I’m gonna find a pale, young heiress”, and that’s got to be a good thing. Moving on, “Keep Me Distracted (Part II)” reboots the feel-good factor with a sunny pop skank starring perhaps the most botched-sounding guitar solo ever to make it onto record, before the charmingly titled “All a Dream” brings it all nicely full circle with a flurry of vocal samples.
All in all, this is tremendous stuff fit to soundtrack anyone’s summer party, barbecue, picnic in the park or whatever seasonal activities you might require a soundtrack for. Here’s hoping it gets the attention it resoundingly deserves.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!