Album Reviews

Velvet Crush

Pre-Teen Symphonies

Artist:     Velvet Crush

Album:     Pre-Teen Symphonies

Label:     Omnivore

Release Date:     07/22/2016


As far as legendary albums go, Velvet Crush’s Teenage Symphonies To God doesn’t garner more than a cursory nod from the intelligentsia. Regardless, when it comes to classic power pop, it co-exists on the highest pantheons along with anything produced by other icons of the era, the dBs, Gigolo Aunts, Teenage Fanclub included. And while some still hold fondness for the work of this Rhode Island trio — bassist/guitarist Paul Chastain, drummer Ric Menck and guitarist Jeffrey Underhill — their efforts have mostly been relegated to the category of most also-rans of pop history.

Clearly, they deserve better, and having an astute producer like Mitch Easter at the helm only affirms that declaration. Granted, listening to the demos of songs that would eventually coalesce into that could-have-been, should-have-been masterpiece doesn’t necessarily affirm the band’s brilliance, but there is something to be said for tracks that sound so immediately infectious they’re completely compelling even in this seminal state. The brilliant “My Blank Pages” surges on a Stones-style riff, while “Time Wraps Around You” brings a certain similarity to the Byrds in both title and substance. The band delivered these gems fully formed, making it good enough to stand alongside the finished album in both theory and substance.

The live recordings included in Pre-Teen Symphonies, recorded in 1995 at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago, also serve things well, proving that for all the tightness and cohesion they mustered in the studio their energy and enthusiasm was best played out in concert. Part of that dynamic can be attributed to Tommy Keene’s temporary role as lead guitarist, at least according to Ric Menck’s assertion in the liner notes. Even so, when taken in tandem, these demos and live performances provide an insider’s look at the building of a band, one that may finally reap the recognition that eluded it early on.

– Lee Zimmerman

Got something to say?