Tenement: “Afraid Of The Unknown”

Appleton, Wisconsin is not immediately thought of as a creative hub, but that works to Tenement’s advantage. While it’s developed a following in the punk underground, the band is largely isolated from expectations. Frontman Amos Pitsch has a restlessly creative mind, not content to follow either punk or pop orthodoxy. Tenement’s latest record, Predatory Headlights, is a wildly fun listen, primarily because the trio covers so much stylistic ground across twenty-five songs. Standard verse-chorus-verse punk gives way to nine-minute jazz sound collages; lo-fi psychedelia mixes with hi-fi arena rock. They don’t necessarily sound anything like Spoon, but Tenement has similar qualities: simple melodies over complex production and songs that you can replay again and again.

Even with high-profile praise from the New York Times and Grantland, Predatory Headlights still feels like a personal record. There isn’t any sort of belabored anxiety. The album sounds like a bunch of ideas thrown against the wall, and they all largely stick. My favorite comes at the very end: after getting pummeled by so much music, Tenement closes the record with the power pop sugar-rush of “Afraid Of The Unknown,” a song that virtually ensures you’ll take the album-length trip one more time just to get there again.

–Art Levy

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