Grapetooth’s self-titled debut could totally pass as the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie. It’s youthful, fun and far-out, an honorable tribute to 80s synthpop and a boozy account of what it feels like to be young and stupid. If Tears For Fears had shared a fifth of Fireball prior to recording Songs From The Big Chair, it may have sounded a little something like this.
“How violent are you?” Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni repeatedly ask over upbeat synthlines in the album opener, “Violent,” which is not a song for grownups. Rather than seeking to incite violence, “Violent” encourages recklessness, specifically the kind of rebelliousness and carefree attitude that go hand in hand with young adulthood. “Violent” might as well be saying, “Are you down to shotgun a beer, then maybe jump off a roof?” If your answer to that question is “Yes,” or even if you just enjoy classic red Solo cup jams, “Violent” might make for your new favorite party anthem. Later, Grapetooth are up to no good again on “Trouble,” an instant treat in less than ten words. The only lyrics in the song are “Trouble comin’ down” and “I don’t mind livin’ / I don’t mind givin’ it up,” allowing it a laid-back, three-sheets-to-the-wind mood.
“Red Wine” would pair well with an actual glass of the good stuff. Frankel and Bailoni are so obsessed with the fermented fruit they named their band Grapetooth, an affectionate nickname for a wine junkie, and their own tribute to the drink, “Red Wine,” is a sloshed space-out, a groovy, funk-fueled trip with bass to spare. It’s a love letter to red wine, but not the kind your parents drink, not the barrelled pools of purple primed for taste-testing in California wineries or Italian vineyards—rather, the bottom shelf caches, the Charles Shaws and boxed wines you might’ve found in my college dorm room. If you’re enjoying a sommelier-curated pick, chances are you’re after taste and experience over a buzz, unlike the subjects of this delightfully drunken tune: “As the wine hits my head / My teeth start turning red.”
Sleeper “Mile After Mile” would play in the John Hughes movie when the lead character is at their most blue—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s Cameron would be bedridden with flu, Pretty in Pink’s Andie stricken with embarrassment. It’s somber and slow, the synths snoozing on like a bad slow dance track at a gym prom. Grapetooth are good at writing party songs, maybe just not that type of party song.
“Hangover” sounds more Human League than Tears For Fears—Frankel’s and Bailoni’s pitch-black vocals are reminiscent of “Don’t You Want Me.” But before the album’s end, Grapetooth manage another party bop, this time about wine’s biblical counterpart, “Blood.” It’s uproarious and almost radio-ready. Frankel and Bailoni become a chorus of voices, chanting, “I want it! I want it!” If the duo’s aim was to make dance music unlike any other kind on the soundwaves in 2018, consider that goal accomplished. If their aim was to respectfully recreate the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie, consider that goal met, as well. No matter their decade of influence, Grapetooth’s first album will have you dancing into the night with a glass (or bottle) of Two Buck Chuck in hand.