Album Review: Teenage Time Killers, ‘Greatest Hits Vol.1’

Teenage Time Killers album coverArtist: Teenage Time Killers
Album: Greatest Hits Vol.1
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 31st July
Find it at: iTunes
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

“The best punk-rock mixtape you’ve ever heard… expertly weaving together the music’s common DNA.”

Killers by name, killer by nature, news of the existence of Teenage Time Killers seemed to spill out into the public domain almost by accident, something probably entirely in keeping with the occasionally haphazard D.I.Y. Washington D.C. hardcore scene of the 80’s which was the proving ground for many of the renowned musicians that contribute to Greatest Hits Vol.1.

As early as 2013 Corrosion Of Conformity’s Reed Mullin was on record talking about the project, something that lackadaisical bloggers latched on to, in turn spreading often misinterpreted and inaccurate information about the group across the web.

For those who have been living under the proverbial rock then, Teenage Time Killers formed around the core trio of Mullin, guitarist Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds of Satan, Chevy Metal) and chief engineer at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, John “Lou” Lousteau. Originating as a 5 track EP with Jello Biafra contributing the only guest vocal, a now infamous airport encounter between Mullin and Lamb Of God front man Randy Blythe saw the singer recording a vocal track for the song “Hung Out To Dry”. The rest, as they always say, is history.

And what of that history? With such notable punk, rock and metal vets as Lee Ving (FEAR), Tommy Victor (Prong), Phil Rind (Sacred Reich) and Brian Baker (Minor Threat) on board, does Greatest Hits Vol.1 have a tendency to lean towards an entertaining but rose-tinted nostalgia for an influential scene that has long since evolved in to something entirely different?

Far. Fucking. From it.

Whilst the sound of Teenage Time Killers finds its roots in the hardcore, sludge-laden punk-o-metal carpet ride of the 80’s, it is a scintillating, electrifying and timely reminder of what a potent and vital force heavy music can still be. Rather than becoming a discombobulated collection of rotating musicians and their disparate songs, the album coheres like the best punk-rock mixtape you’ve ever heard, threading a line through the music’s evolutionary edges, whilst expertly weaving together its common DNA.

The tracks that the group shared ahead of the album’s release are a case in point. The Blythe-led “Hung Out To Dry”, also featuring guitar by Mike Schaefer, is a vicious, snarling blast of head-down, volume-up hardcore, well suited to the Lamb Of God man’s sand-blasted vocal style. “Barrio” mines a more traditionally melodic breed of punk, dished out with brio by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba and Minor Threat’s Brian Baker. The schizophrenic “Ode To Sean Hannity” serves up a deliciously discordant Dead Kennedys style brew, and it’s not too hard to see why Mullin had Jello Biafra in mind to lay down his unmistakable razor-sharp vocal yelp over a song inspired by a John Cleese poem. The towering “Crowned By The Light Of The Sun” builds a brawny behemoth of a song at the cataclysmic, doom-laden end of the punk-rock spectrum, Clutch’s Neil Fallon raining down a throaty, firestorm vocal accompanied by additional guitar from Fireball Ministry’s Jim Rota.

LouReedMick  TTK @Studio606 Photo by TairrieBMurphy
John Lousteau, Reed Mullin and Mick Murphy at Studio 606
(Photo: Tairrie B. Murphy)

But the high points of the album don’t end there. My Ruin maven Tairrie B. Murphy’s earth-shattering performance on “Clawhoof” mixes up her signature ruinous scream with gritty sung passages that are equal parts brain and brawn; Scream and Goatsnake man Pete Stahl lends a metallic edge to his vocal on the stoned and descending riff of “Plank Walk”, also featuring Goatsnake colleague Greg Anderson on guitar; and Corey Taylor brings out his Stone Sour clean-cut singing style on the up-tempo, bird-flipping staccato middle finger that is “Egobomb”, rather than his molten Slipknot sound.

But for all the entirely appropriate hero worship that surrounds this project (let’s face it, Greatest Hits Vol.1 has been the most eagerly anticipated album by ANY “supergroup” in the last 12 months), there are those heroes within the Teenage Time Killers camp who still remain somewhat unsung. For it seems clear to these ears that this album would not be all that it is without the blistering work of the TTK bedrock that is Mullin, Murphy and Lousteau.

The vast majority of Greatest Hits Vol.1’s 20 tracks are Mullin-Murphy co-writes, and Mullin himself delivers two of the best vocal performances on the disc in the form of both “Exploder” and “The Dead Hand” (the latter, by the way, covering the topic of the Cold War Soviet missile system, NOT – as the UK’s NME laughingly tried to suggest – the potential symptoms of chronic masturbation.) Mick Murphy must now surely be the most criminally underrated musician in the whole of the heavy music scene. His astonishingly high hit-rate both as a writer and performer is simply second to none, his musical fingerprints being all over this record (as well as those by his plethora of other projects.) And accommodating the subtleties and nuances of the wide range of performers and styles of music on display here – and bringing them together in to a coherent whole – is no mean feat at all. Yet it is one carried off with aplomb by 606’s keeper of the controls, John Lousteau. Bring your hands together and raise a glass then for the three-strong beating heart at the centre of this head-trip of an album.

Will we hear more from Teenage Time Killers in the future? Who knows, but Mullin recently told Rolling Stone that he would definitely be up for it. There’s even rumour that many of the performers will come together later in the year for a Stateside shindig the likes of which the punk, rock and metal scenes will not have seen for quite some time, or perhaps ever will again.

So until such time as we know more, grab yourself a copy of Greatest Hits Vol.1, dust down your stereo and crank up the volume, and go and get your motherfucking hardcore on.

Greatest Hits Vol.1 is out now. You can listen to the album in full for a limited time via the Rise Records stream below.

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