Irony, oh you are such a tease. The Teenagers, three grubby Parisian hipsters with a fondness for infectious electro-pop and filthy lyrical fantasies, are playing the Thekla, Bristol’s floating rock club and a ship once known as the Old Profanity Showboat. Singer Quentin, skinny, cute and mischievous twinkle in his eye, is leading a rabble crowd of drunken Bristolians through the x-rated chorus of ‘Homecoming‘, the band’s most notorious and deliciously addictive number. “I fucked my American cunt,” they sing in unison, like a Skins version of Songs of Praise. Old Profanity owner, arch-surrealist and Bonzo Dog Band leader Vivian Stanshall, currently mixing it up in Dali heaven, should no doubt be extremely proud.
The Teenagers are of course the most titillating thing to arrive from Paris since Lady Sarkozy eyed up Prince Philip behind the French President’s back. Fashion-mag cool and full of subversive knowing references to their formative years, they’re annoying as many people as are swooning for their unique blend of Gallic sleaze. Tonight, everyone at the Thekla seems far too drunk to care though. Deep in the ship’s bowels, the crowd is a salacious mix of Teenagers-obsessive’s, gearing up for tonight’s performance with impromptu shouts of that ‘Homecoming’ chorus, and dozens of lager-fuelled lads, fresh from the high street and intent on continuing their binge-apocalypse.
If it looks a mess from the stage, then the view for the audience is certainly as skuzzy. Expanded to a five piece through extra guitar and live drums, the Teenagers race through cuts from their impressive debut ‘Reality Check‘ like they can’t wait to get amongst the dirty throng. During current single, the fiery ‘Love No’ – the one where, in their wispy accents, they deliciously pronounce “greasy” as “greezy” – Quentin, mike lead wrapped around hand, other arm outstretched and bouncing up and down like a cat on pins, leans back and fore into the crowd, beckoning the mass to touch him, like some gorgeous lo-fi superstar.
The sight of the lager lads, in their freshly-ironed designer shirts and crap haircuts, reaching out for Quentin, then turning back to their mates with hi-fives (“look mate! I touched the singer!”) is both hilarious and somewhat disturbing, especially during ‘Streets Of Paris‘. While most of ‘Reality Check’ deals with the sweet and bitter moments of adolescence – sex, love, party, vodka, puberty, red bull, reads the ingredients on their MySpace page – the Teenagers have said the only truly autobiographical song is ‘Streets of Paris’. “We were wearing kitten masks,” Quentin sings in a gorgeous giddy high during the chorus, before recounting bumping into a group of thugs wearing “Nike caps” and running for their lives. It’s quite vulgar watching the same kind of thugs barging other people out of the way to get to the front.
Still, the room continues to swirl around the fuzzy mess of 80s pop and lo-fi electro and by the time the Teenagers play the ‘Summer Nights’-on-ketamine ‘Homecoming’, it couldn’t get any messier. Quentin pulls a few eager people onto the stage to sing the boy/girl vocals with him, cruelly letting a girl fumble through her verse, before the crowd pipe back into the chorus of the teen-sex hymn. Suddenly the louts and the indie-kids become one heaving mass, swaying from port to starboard on the Old Profanity Showboat, all singing “I fucked my American cunt / I Loved my English romance”. Vivian Stanshall would love it.
The Teenagers – Starlett Johansson