Simon and Garfunkel lamented the loss of their youth by recalling the touchstone of one of their heroes, Joe DiMaggio. Those raised in the ’80s, such as myself, would call on different heroes, those who were able to capture the dichotomy between the excesses of the decade and the feelings of sensitivity and isolation. In other words, I find myself asking more and more lately, “where have you gone, John Hughes?” With the release of Hughes’ 1990 film, Home Alone, the decade ended both literally and symbolically. I won’t even go into the Beethoven movies. I know of only one way that we could get Hughes back. I’ll send him a copy of My Teenage Stride’s Ears Like Golden Bats.
First off, what a great band name! I could think of no other band in the world that has as fitting a name. In fact, let’s use that as the title of the film. I’m picturing a sequel to Sixteen Candles 25 years later. (We’ll give John two years for production just in case you were actually counting). Samantha Baker is a high school English teacher about to turn 40 and she’s just gone through a horrible divorce from Jake Ryan after he cheated on her with countless young temps from his office. Distraught and alone, Sam returns to her childhood hometown to stay with her parents for a while and regroup. She decides to apply for the open teaching job at her old high school, only to discover that `Farmer Ted,’ that geeky kid from her past, has grown up to be quite the man and is the biology teacher to boot. No story is good without conflict, so guess what? The chemistry teacher is Bryce, with every girl’s favorite, John Cusack, reprising the role. Are these the same guys she met in high school? Yes, and she’s fallen for both of them. It feels like high school all over again, and juxtaposed against the teaching of actual high school kids going through it for the first time, the irony is delicious.
Anyway, the entire soundtrack could be done by My Teenage Stride, a band from Brooklyn releasing their third album, Ears Like Golden Bats. If anything could inspire John Hughes, it’s this album. There are enough bands out there trying to recapture the charm of the ’80s than you can shake a troll doll at, but no one gets it right like My Teenage Stride. Guitars jangle in just the right treble tone, bass thrums with danceable pathos, and Jedediah Smith (yes, that’s his real name) embiggens the role of the fey and sensitive lead singer in a perfectly cromulent way. Echoes of the Smiths (“Heartless & Cruel”), Josef K (title track), Orange Juice (“Depression Kicks”), Flesh for Lulu (“That Should Stand for Something”) and even early R.E.M. (“Actors’ Colony”) weave their way through these two to four minute gems of throwback music.
The more I listen to Ears Like Golden Bats, the more I love it. Smith has proven himself to be a great songwriter, if just a bit out of his element. This works only to his favor as he helps remind us all what was so great about this jangle-pop in the first place. He even manages to change his voice up for every song to get a different texture and feel. Lately, bands like Rock Kills Kid, Film School and a horde of others have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to recapture the magic of the ’80s. They could learn a little something from Jedediah Smith. My Teenage Stride is a band that deserves more attention, if only to act as that Joe DiMaggio-like touchstone of our revered past. So, all that’s left to wrap up is how the movie ends, and I’ll leave that to the master, Mr. John Hughes.