Maybe some of you remember seeing a show called Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (JHMB for short) for the first time back in the day or remember just hearing the name of the show for the first time—or who knows, maybe you’re a toddler-through-tween who knows Muppet Babies from its recent reboot on Disney Junior—but either way I bet when you first stumbled upon JHMB you simply thought “yaaaaas” to yourself…
…because the concept is total perfection—cuteness and nostalgia mixed with the Muppets’ trademark snarky humor (for a kids’ show, at least) but no less sincere for it and overall rough-hewn charm (not to mention the DIY-style felt puppet construction) plus I’ll bet that any one of the Muppet Babies could kick Baby Yoda’s ass all the way to Dagobah and back like Lou Groza on a good day and, I mean, Gonzo or Animal or even the Swedish Chef would probably inadvertantly rip the little backwards-taking, fortune-cookie-quoting green globule to shreds which would keep both of Jim Henson’s hands very busy.
But I digress. The real reason I’m bringing this up is because there’s a good case to be made for Teenage Tom Petties (TTP) being basically a modern-day equivalent of JHMB to the point where the band could legit be renamed Jim Henson’s Gen X Grunge Babies except I do like the mental image of Tom Petty’s lanky frame, center–parted hair, and hangdog face in adolescence with a mouthful of braces and a face full of acne bleating out “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with his laconic voice breaking on almost every syllable alongside a similarly adorable Teenage Stevie Nicks back when she still had a septum.
But I digress. Much like Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, Teenage Tom Petties was hatched from the mind of a single individual, namely, Tom Brown of Rural France fame, who despite the Gallic name are actually from rural England. And if you’re asking yourself “why are a bunch of Britons being featured on the Deli NYC page, and why aren’t they at home sobbing quietly whilst laying a wreath for the Queen?”
Well it’s because the TTP’s are on the road and they’re gonna be playing the first Deli Delivers™ show ever on 9/30, the one and only New York City appearance by the now fully fleshed-out band making their first trip across North America, playing alongside a coterie of cool local NYC acts (The Planes, Holy Tunics, and Kira Metcalf!) at the East Williamsburg EconoLodge (EWEL) but again I digress.
According to their Bandcamp page TTP is a home-recorded garage punk project serving as a semi-autobiographical account of a 90’s teenager, growing up in suburbia, written by someone who was there looking back years later. Quoting directly: “TTP bristles with the excitement of teenage life—the discoveries, the obsessions, the failures, the mundanity—cut through with the lo-fi indie rock sounds of early Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr and even some Descendants [personally, I’d add Guided By Voices, mid-period Sebadoh, and late-period Replacement to this list not to mention Tom Petty perhaps?] capturing the grandness and smallness of teenage life.”
So ya see we’re talking nostalgia, we’re talking rough-hewn textures (felt puppets in musical form!) and fuzzy sweetness, all mashed up together DIY style just like those Muppet Babies. Take the propulsive “Boatyard Winch” for instance which opens TTP’s eponymous debut record a song that’s either about sailing winches or watery tarts—I can’t make out all the lyrics over the racket which is intended as a compliment of course…
…or the strutting “Lambo,” a song about the narrator’s sweet sweet ride or more likely the Lamborghini poster scotch-taped to his wall as a teenager (is it snarky? is it sincere? is there a difference?) with an accompanying video proving you don’t need anything more than an old VHS copy of Cannonball Run II and a green screen to create art.
Meanwhile, “Boxroom Bangers” is indeed a banger with it’s mounting tension-and-release dynamics while “Last Starfighter” is fittingly anthemic with it’s repeated “I don’t care if you love me” refrain. So, yeah, speaking of refrains I’ll refrain from spoiling the back half of the album for you but rest assured Teenage Tom Petties fully live up to their name and then some with music that’s half math club geek and half shop class greaser—like a faded ‘90s high school yearbook distilled into an airy mist and sprayed into your earholes and here’s hoping their latest single “I Met A Girl In America” proves prescient on tour. (Jason Lee)