There's a darkness and a melancholy in the lyrics that acts as a subtle undertow beneath some of the purest, giddiest pop in ages. "A Teenager In Love" takes a Prefab Sprout/Aztec Camera acoustic guitar riff, sprinkles a little synth over the top, and whispers a lyric that on closer examination tells the story of a teenager in love "with Christ and heroin." The overall effect is Less Than Zero reimagined by John Hughes.
Elsewhere, highlights include "Saturday Comes," a pean to the joys of infatuation and isolation, of staying locked away from everyone in "a wasted summer/with no drama." The splendidly titled "Young Adult Friction" is all fumbling in the library - "our bodies spent/among the dust and the microfiche." Synth player Peggy Wang's fragile harmonies twist in and out of Kip Berman's lead particularly effectively here.
"Stay Alive", the center of the record, starts out like a Stone Roses b-side — all thundering drums and acoustic guitar, until the synth bells and fuzzboxes herald a dreamlike, ambiguous lyric of surviving in a shithole. The Mary Chain drumbeat of closer "Gentle Sons" has a sense of the triumphant and the inevitable, a powerhouse closing to a brief, brilliant debut.
All killer, no filler. This is already being hyped into the stratosphere, but it's worth it. Spellbinding. 9/10.