You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Rock*A*Teens for some shallow retro act. Having appropriated its name from a 1950s one-hit wonder, the Atlanta band revels in the kind of AM-radio stardust that defined the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Equally relevant, though, are the frayed-nerve delivery and woozy demeanor of frontman Chris Lopez. His quaking yowl, along with Justin Hughes’s reverb-drenched guitars, ingeniously pervert the hot rave-ups and deliciously shimmering ballads of a bygone era. No stylized tribute, the end product—on display at both Glasslands and Le Poisson Rouge this week—amounts to a punk-schooled reinvention of murky swamp boogie, feral garage stomp and slow-dance-ready melodrama.
The Teens originally released a quintet of underappreciated albums from 1994 to 2002. As part of Merge Records’ recent 25th anniversary, the label reissued the group’s grandiose but interminable and fussy swan song, Sweet Bird of Youth. Meanwhile, the Georgia-based Chunklet imprint has compiled A Major Motion Picture, a superior double live LP that draws on earlier, rowdier material, including tracks from their best, 1999’s near-perfect Golden Time.
In response to all the recent love, Lopez & Co. have reconvened and embarked on a short East Coast tour. As yesteryear’s indie rock turns into tomorrow’s oldies, the R*A*Ts’ heartbroken pop and ragged slop remain ageless.—Jordan N. Mamone