Few things compare to holy trinity of big guitars, pretty harmonies and pop hooks aplenty. The August Teens know it well and worship it often. Heck, they've been doing it for 10 years now.
They also know this combination can redeem even the most indulgent of melodies, such as the one from Bette Midler's "The Rose." The August Teens have done it on their track "A Kiss In Wisconsin," though they didn't realize it when they were writing it.
"I was going for a love-story/punk-ballad when I wrote the song, and only years later did I realize that the verse melody is a ripoff of the opening lines from 'The Rose,'" says Dan Hardgrove of the song, which is the 13th track on the band's new album of the same name.
Getting the love story right was a piece of cake, but punking it up was a bit more difficult.
Hardgrove recalls that he and bandmate Dave Esmond played through four or five guitar amps at once in an attempt to create a super-loud guitar sound on the album.
"[It] maybe doesn't come across in the recording, but [it] no doubt came across to the entire neighborhood the day we recorded it," he says.
Even if the guitars aren't ear-shattering on this track, they're big enough to blast the song straight into your brain's pleasure center.
After a big guitar chord slices through the silence and begins to disintegrate, that sweet, familiar melody enters through the vocals. It's not Midler singing about the heart, afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance. Instead, the band's teaching you about love through the concept of object permanence, with lyrics like "He has eyes that you would recognize / But you haven't seen them enough to see them in your mind." Today's lesson? Loving somebody involves holding a picture -- and a feeling -- of him or her in your mind.
Of course, this picture's not likely to develop if two people are thousands of miles apart. California's calling the girl they're singing to, but Wisconsin's where she's got to be if she wants to fall in love. Cymbals crash like waves as the band sings about Golden State beaches but conjures the spirits of great Midwestern bands like Cheap Trick and the Raspberries, inviting her back to the shores of Lake Mendota.
Even if she doesn't fall in love with her Wisco boy, she's likely to fall for this song--and so are you.
An MP3 of "A Kiss In Wisconsin" is available in the related downloads section at right. Catch the live version of the tune, plus many others, at the band's release party for A Kiss In Wisconsin at the High Noon Saloon on Friday, March 12.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.