Don Giovanni Records
Four years is a long time between proper album releases. The boys of Tenement seemed to have spent much of those years writing, writing, writing. The result, Predatory Highlights, is a double album of 25 songs — almost too much to ingest in one sitting. This isn’t a thematic double album, it’s a mish mash of the Wisconsin band’s myriad of musical interests.
“Dull Joy,” “Under the Storm Clouds,” and “Crop Circle Nation” — three of the most straight forward, and strongest, post emo pop punk songs on here — are offered up in the first gulp of the album. It’s after this, that things get a little weird. Ambient nature sounds and soft singing atop even softer piano makes “Ant + Flies” feel like an interlude. It’s a good place to hit “pause,” go use the bathroom or have a smoke, before returning to the record for the guitar rock of “Garden of Secrecy” that leads into phase two of Predatory Highlights.
In this Act, Tenement flex their classic rock guitar chops on “Whispering Kids,” “Curtains Closed” before stripping down to an acoustic ditty with a falsetto croon on the adorably folksy “You Keep Me Cool.” The Nick Drake feel of “Heavy Odor” peels the final layers of away and lays the band at their most naked. It’s completely unlike anything else on the record, and one of my favorite songs I’ve heard them do yet. The song ends with a long, cinematic arc (is that a cello I hear?) that slowly builds to a crescendo. Again, this is a good place to press “pause.”
After your intermission, “A Frightening Place For Normal People” spends nearly 10 minutes steering you into a surreal landscape of tribal drums, rattlesnake shakes, and old movie sound effects. If you’re confused by this, you’re not alone. This is why I recommend you eat this record in courses because if you try to gorge on it one shot, you’ll be sick halfway through.
The final plate of the ambitious Predatory Highlights begins with a sort of acoustic Nine Inch Nails lullaby called “Licking a Wound” before returning to the band’s Jawbreaker-inspired roots on “I’m Your Super Glue.” A quick instrumental interlude (“The Dishwasher’s Meal”) leads into the homestretch of strange little oddities, of which “Keep Your Mouth Shut” and “Afraid of the Unknown” stick out as winners.
Phew. It’s quite a large meal, this record, but worth the time it takes to digest.