Is there really anything ironic in the way modern hipsters champion irony? The strict definition of the word is an opposite outcome from what was expected — as opposed to the common misperception that it is essentially synonymous with “coincidence.” But irony-fueled hipster chic is now a full-fledged, mainstream cultural phenomenon. We expect our “hipsters” to don uncomfortably skinny jeans, quirky retro T-shirts and oversize sunglasses. We expect “indie” bands to mine musical styles previously thought to lack cool cachet, or to reimagine lame idioms with a clever twist. Because the use of irony has become ubiquitous, it is no longer, in fact, ironic. Oh, the irony! (Sorry.)
That’s some seriously jaded shit, right? What, then, to make of a band like Teleport? The central Vermont outfit is composed of four mid- to late twentysomethings who gleefully share an affinity for the decidedly unhip stylings of — I’m not making this up — finely coiffed cheese merchants Hall and Oates, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Peter Cetera. Their debut full-length, Lost in Space Forever, is an unabashed exposition of late ’70s and early ’80s melodramatic pop.
Opening track “Imagine My Surprise” nicely honors Daryl Hall’s underappreciated prog opus Sacred Songs before descending into breezy, piano-driven pop. The knee-jerk reaction would be to assume Teleport are yet more hipsterer-than-thou artists digging through the skeletons in pop culture’s closet. Songs such as the ’80s-movie-montage-worthy “Green Traveler” and the slinky, subtly sexy “Lost in Space” do little to dilute that notion. But here’s the thing: Lost in Space Forever is not ironic in the least. (Though come to think of it, wouldn’t a lack of irony be the ultimate irony here? My head hurts.)
Brain teasers aside, Lost is roundly excellent. While the easiest points of reference would be guilty pleasures such as H&O’s “Rich Girl” or “Out of Touch,” Teleport delve deeper. Their songs are based on irresistible melodies and countermelodies given life by keyboardist and lead vocalist Mike Wheeler. But behind his sweet, easy croon, the band reveals stunning depth. Bassist Sean Martin (ex-Romans) and drummer Kevin Bell work in lockstep through challenging grooves, while guitarist Adam Fuller winds serpentine lines around Wheeler’s lithe keystrokes.
Make no mistake, this is still hook-heavy fare, often dancing (on the ceiling?) perilously close to schmaltz. But under the pop sheen are intricacy, inventiveness and honesty — especially on cuts such as “Jaws” and album closer “Four Seasons.” These are qualities often missing in modern retro chic. But, blessedly, there’s nothing remotely chic about Teleport.
Teleport play the Monkey House this Saturday, March 12, with Lymbyc Systym, Fugue and Cloudeyes.