It’s hard to be a teen. No generational group receives quite as much bad press as teenagers. They’re derided as impulsive, dramatic, petty, pretentious, reckless, and shallow. As an experiment, I typed news about teenagers into Google. Here are a sample of the results that came up on the first page:
TEENAGERS HURL ABUSE AT MAN ON MANCHESTER TRAM
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH KIDS WHO SMOKE?
YOUR KID ON HEROIN: IT COULD HAPPEN
CREWS RESCUE TEENS WHO VANISHED IN WELSH MOUNTAINS
Based on this very scientific experiment, it would seem that teens are constantly at risk for developing drug addictions, engaging in criminal/abusive behavior or getting lost in the woods.
Part of me gets the teen hate. They’re loud and pushy and usually better dressed than I am. Like some kind of acne-ridden cholesterol, they clog up the aisles of record stores, malls, and bookshops. Once, in Sonic Boom, I heard a teenager turn to his friend and ask–I shit you not–who Keith Richards is. It was the closest I have ever come to murder.
Truthfully though, I’m usually a big fan of teenagers. I spent way more summers than was probably prudent working at a sleep-away camp where I spent a lot of time in very small quarters with teens, and I’m actually convinced that most people are at peak cool around sixteen years old. Writer Alina Simone agrees with me. In her essay A Rock Star is a Teenager, she poses the question: “What if the teenaged you was right? That the one who felt angry, and lonely, and scared so much of the time, who said things too bluntly and felt them too keenly, was actually the better you? …What if, in all our adult wisdom, we’ve pickled our best selves in the vinegar of rationality?”
If this all sounds disheartening, don’t worry. Lisa Prank’s new release, Adult Teen, has arrived to be your spunky, lo-fi antidote to rational adulthood.
Lisa Prank is the musical project of Seattle-by-way-of-Denver musician Robin Edwards. Notably, Edwards performs by herself, accompanied by her guitar and a Roland MC-505 drum machine. Adult Teen is her most recent release since her 2014, five song cassette Crush on the World, and certainly her most ambitious. Though there’s still a distinctly DIY, bedroom-record feel to Adult Teen, it’s a much slicker, more polished piece of work than the tender but fuzzed-out Crush on the World.
The upgrade in production behooves Edwards, whose clever, grinning songwriting is finally allowed to take center stage. Lisa Prank is a musical project that is, by Edwards’ own admission, grounded in the pop-punk of the nineties and early aughts, and like Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, et al., she seems to have mastered the trick of writing one liners that are both deeply clever and sort of stirring. “You say you’re not still drinking, you’re just starting again/ And I swear I don’t still miss you, I just started again,” she states on Starting Again, and for a second you’re so dazzled by how clever that line is that you almost don’t notice that it’s also a huge bummer. Unlike her pop-punk predecessors though, Edwards is much more interested in sincerity than post-adolescent posturing. “I’m always wanting more from everything I ever see,” she exclaims at one point, sounding simultaneously exasperated and vulnerable. For what is ostensibly a pop-punk record, it’s surprisingly nuanced stuff.
There are enough hooks and sledgehammering power chords to make Adult Teen pretty immediately appealing. The pre-chorus in Take It All, for example, is as good a hook as anything in Blink-182’s repertoire. But the nuance of the whole thing starts becoming clearer on the fifth or sixth listen. The biggest drawback of the whole Lisa Prank setup is that it can all tend to sound a bit sonically same-y. There are, after all, only so many combinations of sound that an electric guitar, drum machine, and human voice can feasibly make, and Edwards seems perfectly content to stay within the brief pop song framework. But by confining herself to a relatively small sound-world, Edwards is able to mine it for all its emotional worth. I honestly didn’t think somebody could write a raw, bittersweet, post-breakup ballad that’s also a sticky pop-punk confection, but hell, that’s exactly what Turn It Up is. Or how about a driving, anthemic love song that’s also kind of about how the right person can make us feel less afraid and dissatisfied with life? Yep, she’s got that too (Best of Everything)
Adult Teen is a clever, bubbly party record, but it’s also a reminder that embracing our dramatic, impulsive teenage selves is sometimes, like, totally awesome.