Music Reviews

First String Teenage High

The Songs of Tullycraft Played by People Who Aren’t

Bumble Bear

I first found out about the cult phenomenon that is Tullycraft not by hearing their music, but because I worked at a Seattle branch of Kinko’s with the band’s frontman, Sean Tollefson. I was quick to notice that while it was acceptable to acknowledge his involvement in the city’s music scene, open talk about his musical double life was clearly taboo. Tullycraft itself was referred to as “The Band.” Sean, a reticent sort who normally worked the day shift (I worked evenings), never spoke to me once about it. But his then- (and perhaps even now-, for all I know) girlfriend broached the subject during the course of one conversation about – of all things – musicians who got their start while working at Kinko’s, namely Mac from Superchunk and Doug Martsch from Built to Spill.

“…Sean likes working here. He can take time off to play with The Band.” “What’s his band’s name?” “Tullycraft,” she said sotto voce, as if she were passing on national security secrets. “Who?” Slightly louder this time, “_Tully_craft.” “Oh, right,” I replied equivocally, having deemed it likely inappropriate to ask just who the hell Tullycraft were. From there, it wasn’t too long before curiosity got the better of me and I had the band’s signature tune, “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend Is too Stupid to Know About,” spinning on my stereo along with all of their other unabashedly lovesick, self-professedly twee pop songs.

The First String Teenage High compilation is nothing if not a lot of fun. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much listening to a record, let alone a tribute album that by nature opens itself up to criticism of interpretation. Most, if not all, these recordings were carried out in the lighthearted spirit in which the originals were intended, beginning with the staticky bubblegum of Pipper the Kissing Cat’s “Pedal,” on to the odd fairground contraption style of Crewsin’ for a Brewsin’s “Bailey Park,” through Blister Fist’s new wave version of “Surfer Girl” and the grave sonic headtrip of Beltline’s “The Lives of Cleopatra.” Same goes for Murder Beach and “8 Great Ways,” “Stay Cool I’ll See You This Summer” by The Boys’ Star Library and Genoe’s lethargic rendition of “Miss Douglas County.” Of the 22 tracks here, the only glaring disappointments are the atrocious basement punk of Gang Wizard’s “Meet Me in Las Vegas” and the niggling fact that only one track from the recent Beat, Surf, Fun makes an appearance. The plus side is that no one had the poor judgement to cover the ‘uncoverable’ “Pop Songs”…

With this project, the uninitiated no longer have to wonder who the hell Tullycraft are: the bands featured here will tell you everything you need to know. On the other hand, you could cut out the middleman and simply buy a Tullycraft album, beginning with their best, Old Traditions, New Standards.

Bumble Bear: • First String Teenage High:

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