Duluth is where cool musicians go to retire

Teenage Prayers photo by Orianna Riley from PopMatters.

Teenage Prayers is a band from my days in college radio in Milwaukee. KUMD and KUWS approach the college radio vibe, but in the 1990s, college radio was a thing, and Teenage Prayers was a part of the thing.

And Kyle Wills, formerly of Teenage Prayers, was shopping for records at Globe News not too long ago. Imagine my surprise. Duluth is where cool musicians come to raise families and retire.

About Teenage Prayers, David Banash wrote:

[T]hough I loved the name, the Teenage Prayers sound would turn out to be not a shimmer, but a deep, dirty swell, and it would take me a surprisingly long time to realize that their album Ten Songs is a remarkable work, one of those few perfect albums, a category defined by the likes of the Television’s Marquee Moon or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

David Banash also wrote:

One can’t really just pick out a representative track, for the [Teenage Prayers] albums really are just that, complete units of sound that grow and develop and move the listener, and it is this depth that gives the lie, or at least the profound irony, to the name the Teenage Prayers.

While you might be misled by the name into thinking that this music is the prayers of teenagers, you finally realize that it is a prayer to that innocence — to the longing, the infinite potential, and the openness of that glorious moment at its best. This is prayer as reflection and meditation, as a sustained longing that goes beyond the two-minutes-thirty-seconds of a pop single. If the Romantic poet William Wordsworth defined a poem as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility,” that would almost fit the Teenage Prayers, save that their recollection of the sounds of soul, the longings of love, and the race with mortality are not tranquil, but rather troubled and wild. Having survived our adolescence, facing a changing world, we still need to reach out to our dreams — not that we might be trapped in the past, lashed to those dreams, but that we might be reborn through our memory, turning to the past to redeem that radical openness in our present as we “walk through every door that swings open” in these amazing sounds. As the Prayers sing it in “Banner Muse,” “Its a way to make her feel less broken / Lashed to a canon of a decade’s worth of unmade dreams / She’s been reborn.” And while these lines aren’t about the Prayers themselves, they might just capture what it is that makes this music so moving.

Banash had a good time at Teenage Prayers shows:

I chanted and swayed, and I screamed at the top of my voice for them, shouted the lyrics along with them to every song, and by the end drunkenly embraced every member of the band, carried away into that magic circle where, for a moment, I forgot myself and gave over completely, foolishly, and beautifully to the sounds.

Do you think we can get the Duluth contingent of the Teenage Prayers to play out?

For more info:
Flophouse Sessions

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