Album review: Who Really Cares

On the opener “Taking What’s Not Yours” from the marvelous Who Really CaresTV Girl’s Brad Petering describes the spoils of his recently broken-up relationship. “I still have your lighter,” he sings, “I still have your book/I still have everything you brought but you never took.” How does he defend his petty larceny? “You know where to find me/And I know where to look.”

Of course, she’s not coming back for her stuff, so he’s going to keep her copy of Gravity’s Rainbow while she flaunts his rings on her fingers when she goes out with her girlfriends. It’s a wry take on a romantic cliche, and Who Really Cares brims with these takes, all backdropped with sharp 80s synthpop, lush 60s dreampop, smoky black-and-white movie samples, and enough sarcastic wit to rustle the jimmies of anyone who has ever complained about millennials.

Above all, the boys in TV Girl seem horny, and they’re also clever about letting their pantsfeelings narrate their heartache. On “Song About Me,” Petering laments an ex faking her orgasms even though “It was much appreciated…to try to make a sound she’d thought I’d like.” The thought would be tragic if it weren’t for the on-point response from singer Maddie Acid (“Now you’re feeling depressed/just because we had sex and it didn’t last…don’t make me laugh”), as well as the chipmunk chorus and disco lights that make the song so damn catchy. The same thing happens on “(Do The) Act Like You Never Met Me” where the band turns post-coital ignorance into the latest dance craze, and even though it’s the saddest freaking thing on the dancefloor, it almost works. The melancholy eventually overwhelms, however, no matter how much the music makes you want to shake your ass.

The album’s mood pivots on the centerpiece “Not Allowed,” which begins with a brusque and heartwarming “YOU SUCK!” It’s the hookiest song on the album, but its infectious rhythms fall behind the inspired musings of those “horny poets:” “He never even took you out to dance/But did he fuck with any rhythm?” “Did he ever make you come?/Did he ever make you cry?” “Now you’re wasting your tongue with your lame excuses and lies/get your head between my thighs.” “Be careful who you screw and never call/And I’m starting to suspect/You don’t do anything you intend to say at all.” It’s frustrating, and it’s lovely.

From there on out, the album morphs from a sexy dance party to a series of vignettes about emptiness and confusion. On the swaying “Safe Word,” the band reminds us that there are things that hurt worse than BDSM, and on “Loving Machine” Petering chokes out a tale of an old flame dating the newest model of fuck robot, and the entire scene makes him (and me) way sadder than it should. The closer “Heaven is a Bedroom” provides a tiny bit of perspective (“I confess that thinking sex was my salvation”) before advocating the crushing of the ones you love. As the romping finale, “Heaven is a Bedroom” spells out the dangers of men who believe they have the right to a woman’s affection, and the most heartbreaking part the instant relatability to any man for whom love has saddened.

On the band’s official Bandcamp page, they describe Who Really Cares as:

An album about sex

Or lack therof

And its consequences

Or lack therof

Except there really is no “lack therof” of sex on this album. Who Really Cares is saturated in body fluids, the most important of which your own sweat from how much it’s going to make you dance, or maybe your own tears depending on how sensitive you are to failed romance. TV Girl is Foster the People for the horny poets, and its self-acknowledged weaknesses to pheromones and social expectations make it all the more magnificent.

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