Maybe it’s just the dry, old-school-lo-fi production — lending it an unvarnished patina not entirely unlike the results I get on my cassette 8-track when I can be bothered to be fastidious and have access to halfway decent microphones — but in Teen Challenge, Lincoln, Nebraska’s Pharmacy Spirits have created an album to which listening feels like you’ve unearthed an unknown treasure. Specifically, it plays like a compilation of the entire, mostly 7″ discography released over three very intense years by some little-known 80s postpunk or 90’s emo band (geographically, and to a degree sonically appropriate, Friction comes to mind), that found no notice beyond a small underground following, but in their short life managed to very quickly transcend their nichey little genre to create something really special that probably meant an awful lot to a number of now widely-scattered people who at age 19 or so saw them in any of several basement shows, knew their songs backwards and forwards, once were fiercely devoted but now years later have all but forgotten, the band’s cassettes and records now stuffed along with other old keepsakes into boxes in corners of very different basements, or long since lost in the flux of chaotic young lives… but now you stumble across these songs languishing in some back corner of a record store, and knowing nothing of all this history you buy it on a whim, take it home and put on, and realize that you’ve stumbled onto a weighty little artifact indeed. If you were to somehow find those basement-show kids, no longer kids, settled down with families now, and play them that old record, sweet sad memories would come flooding back as if through past-life regression hypnosis. And yet for as much as the music of Pharmacy Spirits feels like it’s calling to you out of your mythic punk-rock past, not one note sounds dated, exactly. Indeed many of the sonic elements — yelpy vocals, angular guitars — tend to go over big with indie kids these days. Where Teen Challenge does feel like a period piece, it pulls the act off authentically enough, and with enough original touches, to seem like more than mere homage. They’ll be at Vaudeville Mews on August 29 with Gabe Cordova. Though I almost would prefer seeing them in a basement.
(Now Listening: Zoroaster — Matador)