COUNTRY TEASERS: The Empire Strikes Back: LP

Feb 15, 2007

Lots of things can be said about Teaser mastermind Ben Waller’s lyrics: they are meant simply to aggravate, he explores taboo ideas to make you think, he’s just drunk. “Points of view are very hard to understand….all human life must be destroyed.” I don’t think he is just trying to fuck with people, they could do that a lot easier and even rhyme. But yes, the Teasers are fucking with you, in order to move things forward. Exploring taboo ideas in music means you are talking more about culture than just “my parents suck.” So that’s an easy statement, too. Waller uses lots of non-PC words in his songs but if you see the cover of the album, an old political pulp-sized book about racism in England, you might think you are going to get a Zinn-Chomsky breakdown of language and politics (nothing wrong with that, by the way). But this is a Lenny Bruce vibe, using language that can sound funny on stage but you take meaning home. No, I think Wallers does what a songwriter does: sings about his world. He’s a thoughtful writer and that means he is not going to tell you how to fix the world or what his lyrics mean. And Lord, people hate it when you don’t tell them exactly what a song means. He sings about race, music, women, sex, war, drinking, government and even about his own music. He is observational. Not in a “I don’t hate others, I’m just proud” bullshit way. That’s for skins and collegians who analyze too much. Not even in a “I hate people” way. I think more of a “I hate people who don’t think” way. And singing about your world is the core of what country, blues, rap, and rock and roll should be about in the first place. On the music end, this is the Teaser’s slow to medium paced melancholy twang, super plucky, as opposed to the faster version of the band. For thirteen years now, the Teasers have keyed into a childlike fascination of simple sounds that work together, bump and thump and whirr, and process it into pure charm. It sweeps you up and carries you through the whole album. Waller’s voice has that old deadpan country-drinker, forced-singer whine that you can dive into. I do think he drinks a lot, though.

 –mike (In The Red)