Waste Age Teenland
Every once in awhile, you come across one of those records that, before you even spin it, already carries a significant amount of emotional weight. For fans of Face Candy, the jazz-rap anomaly who came to prominence in 2006 with their debut This Is Where We Were, Waste Age Teenland is that kind of album. After the sudden death of main rapper and creative force Micheal Larsen (better known by his stage name Eyedea) in 2010, the future of Face Candy was and still is uncertain. Waste Age Teenland collects some of his last session with the band, both in studio and as part of their crazy, improvised live shows, hoping to serve as both a genre-bending album and artifact of Eyedea’s presence.
Just as their debut album did, the most recent offering from Face Candy is a manic, powerful and sometimes scattered effort. Ditching track titles in favor of a straightforward numerical approach, opening track “One” lays the groundwork for the rest of the album. An ethereal guitar tone floats around the arrangement while the vocals slowly build and overlap, repeating the phrase, “Sounds good/ Sounds great/ So does an earthquake.” Though a non-sequitur, it’s an apt harbinger for the mix of frenzied, melodic and shattering vocal turns throughout the record. “Two” sees Eyedea blistering through images of soul cleansing while a sinister, dissonant guitar and bass riff grounds his chaotic delivery. Most bands wouldn’t dare improvise nearly an entire album, but Eyedea, with his roots in underground rap battles and poetry slams, sounds completely at home. The delivery often threatens to fall off the rails, but that’s half the appeal; Face Candy continually take us places we don’t expect, twisting and turning melodies and verses, injecting them with stylish enjambments and alliterations.
Where This Is Where We Were showed off the vocal ability and energy of the group in a live setting, Waste Age Teenland is a more sonically ambitious record that’s prepared to not only deliver their typical philosophically and politically charged rhetoric, but also explore their range of compositional abilities. There’s a significant focus on pacing here that wasn’t present on their debut. The spacey, reverb-heavy jams of “Eight” and “Fourteen” are welcome instrumental breaks in the otherwise frantic flow. They act as small moments of atmosphere, building a pensive, sonic foundation around the sometimes-harsh vocal delivery. There are many times when the album veers into the territory of fusion-era Miles Davis or the more modern experiments of the Books or Wax Tailor. The resulting moments are fueled by the associations we make with the previous tracks; the existential dystopia of “Seven” informs the sonic landscape of “Eight,” creating a thematic flow out of seemingly disconnected ideas.
Waste Age Teenland has its share of underwhelming moments, but they’re usually so brief that they don’t hinder the album as a whole. When Face Candy isn’t pummeling us with a whirlwind of rhymes, they’re pushing the boundaries and expectations of hip-hop by fusing the aggressiveness of street rap with the free-flowing form of jazz. This is music as performance art and activism. It can be hard to examine this album outside of its context; the posthumous presence of Eyedea’s voice is both haunting and powerful, looming heavily over the record; but this is so much more than a rushed release of “last recordings.” Waste Age Teenland is a relic even outside of its context. It’s an album that challenges the popular opinion of hip-hop in consistently compelling ways, and even though it contains a few misses, it’s hard to argue against an album that swings for the fences on each and every track and connects on so many levels.
by Kyle Fowle