Lost in a memory and a thought, Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys share an engrossing tale of love, obsession, and letting go on the beautifully stark and soul penetrating, ‘Teen Tapes (For Performing Your Own Stunts)’.
Three years and a trilogy is completed. This sounds like the description of Peter Jackson’s next cinematic project or King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s plans in the immediate future. Instead, this is what Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys have achieved, which is a rarity within music. The three-part series began with 2020’s Sleeping Tapes For Some Girls, which chronicled the days and weeks before the then-Cape Town-based Kruger packed her bags for Berlin. Its Gothic psychedelic-folk approach made Kruger’s adventure seem to be one full of questions, uncertainty, and even torment than excitement.
Last year’s Transit Tapes (For Women Who Move Furniture Around) documented a stranger’s arrival to the German capital, where everything was unfamiliar yet intoxicating. From its inhabitants to its rich culture to conflicting history, Kruger became consumed with her new residence and those with whom she shared the city. For the final installment of the series, the South African reveals her heart, and she, with the support of Liú Mottes (guitar), Andreas Miranda (bass), and Martin Perret (drums, percussion), does it in her very unique way.
Teen Tapes (For Performing Your Own Stunts) is an engrossing tale of love, obsession, and letting go. It represents the balance between want and restraint, and how lives can be paralyzed when a single thought dominates one’s feeling. Kruger & The Lost Boys achieve this through a stark yet mesmerizing approach, as the gloom of her previous psych-folk efforts is given the widescreen treatment.
Opener “Warm I” is a microcosm of the album’s chilling, sparse effect. Patiently and quietly Kruger & The Lost Boys create the feeling that the walls are slowly closing in around her. “She makes me feel so fucking warm / She takes me back to the high school corridor”, Kruger recalls a forbidden infatuation immediately at the start. As the guitar calmly sears, she reveals, “I’m a mess”, as her emotions have gotten the best of her.
With a trembling, dark repulsion echoing from the sinister guitar and the foreboding rhythms, “Risk” concerns choices to be made. Kruger compares herself to a reptile, like a chameleon, who must choose what color she will become. Will she hide in the shadows or stand out from the company she keeps? Her words could be directed to someone specific or the city that has made her.
“You were a jolt of pain
To shock me into feeling
And now my scaled skin
Is soft as milk and sure of bleeding”
A P.J. Harvey-like grunge tone emanates from “Spinning”, which provides a partial answer to the question posed above. “There’s something about the way you look at me / That puts my restless thoughts at ease”, Kruger sings with a seductive tone. Despite her words, she still feels uncomfortable because “this skin I’ve known / But hasn’t felt like my own”. This love has turned into addiction and has consumed her.
From one great legend to another, Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys channel Nick Cave and The Black Seeds on “Play”. Kruger’s whispery vocal hovers gently over the taut rhythms and mournful guitars. She sings about the power of love and its paralyzing effects. “If I could only move”, she repeats with hints of lust, desperation, and fear in her voice. Could the uncertainty that drips from her words be due to her not wanting to be confined to a single being or a single place?
Because on the stunning gloominess of “Amsterdam”, she describes a night that is at first innocent but then turns into pain and possibly tragedy. Kruger fleetingly sings, “You lose the thing that you love / I don’t want the sun to split up the night / You are all of the light that I want to see.” The song then turns, as the guitars rise and a wonderful wall of Gothic intensity forms. Despite it all, Kruger cannot let go, as she reveals on the deliciously devouring, “Autobiography of an Evening”. Dark yet breathtakingly cinematic, the track is as hypnotic as a bonfire searing in the still night. Kruger’s voice, meanwhile, is both calm yet ominous, and she sounds like she is about to enter a life where night exists for eternity. That she is the sacrifice so that another person can feel power and liberation.
“The smallest hurricane
Has slipped between my lungs
Won’t you help me get it out
With a blade a breath a tongue
Let’s suck all the light
From the core of the night”
This theme of sacrifice is repeated on the slow stuttering of “Hold You Back”. As the song patiently builds, Kruger realizes that to love is to let go. She repeats, “Never wanna be the one / To hold you back”. The yearning to be held, to be wanted, though, eats away at her. On the cleverly-titled and pensive “Iscariot”, Kruger reveals how that person remains in her thoughts. But to win her back, will she break promises, which includes betraying others? Or will she ignore her deepest desires and, thus, betray herself?
Love, however, cannot be easily set aside. The beautifully morbid “Escape” sees Kruger fall further into the endless rabbit hold of despair and want. Her words are poetic yet vivid, as if she is writing a screenplay.
“Hold the wound under the water
Count to ten then breathe again
Lover once I was a daughter
Towards something more than”
Like the movies, there is a happy ending – or more like the possibility of one. On the LP’s closer, “Unpack”, Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys set aside the dark, Gothic tones and deliver the equivalent of a lullaby. Mystery, however, still lurks behind every corner. For all we know, Lucy is still lost inside a memory, inside a thought. She leaves one lasting mark when she sings:
“When I’m here inside your room
It’s everything I choose
I’ve everything to lose
Fuck I’m so in love with you”
These are fitting words to an album that is absorbed in obsession and want. And for an album that will have listeners lusting to hear more from one of Europe’s most underrated talents.
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