Chumped are young, and they’re misfits. They don’t skirt those qualities on their debut LP, Teenage Retirement, a strong opening statement of charming pop punk with airtight hooks and ripping guitar leads. The album, like its title suggests, deals with the transition between awkward adolescence and making it on your own. Often, it feels like a mirror on Millennial angst and indecision. As the band once put it in an interview, “Teenage Retirement” means “moving out of your mom’s basement but not losing what was awesome about living in your mom’s basement.”
The band, which consists of four Brooklyn transplants — three childhood friends from Colorado and one from New Jersey — met and began making their respective acoustic demos electric. After fruitful practice sessions turned them into a bona fide quartet, they quickly recorded an EP, quit their jobs, and headed out on their first-ever tour. With Teenage Retirement, the decision to uproot and pursue being a band seems incredibly smart. Spanning 12 tracks, each full of enthusiastic Superchunk-inspired guitar chords, emotionally resonant lyrics, and ebullient choruses, the album has a tangible infectiousness.
Many of Chumped’s songs tackle similar things like unrequited love, wasting time, and lazy days, but it’s always executed in ways that are insightful and often funny. Lead singer Anika Pyle’s both youthful and emotive, ably capturing the frustration and “fuck it” attitude the band’s songs exude. As a writer, she’s best at breaking down emotions into blunt terms, like on “Name That Thing”, where she sings, “And we drank and we talked shit and I was happy/ Tried so desperately to hold onto the feeling/ Of being young, of being sure, of being lucky.” On “Hot 97 Summer Jam”, she reveals, “I have so many things I want to say/ Instead I’ll help myself to more champagne.” Those lines are simple but also effective, especially when ripping power chords launch them into catharsis.
Coming from a band that classifies itself as “bummer punk,” Teenage Retirement is a wonderfully hopeful record. Album highlight “Songs About Boats” boasts one of the album’s best hooks and its most interesting chord progression, and it also features an uplifting pep talk from Pyle: “If you want freedom/ And a new thing/ Well, I say go ahead and take it, honey.” After detailing regrets about not studying abroad and not knowing what she wanted on “Songs About Geography”, she sings, “I know why they say that life’s too short to keep on living in nostalgia.” The album deals with heartbreak and regret, but it deals with resilience more.
While there’s not really a dud on Teenage Retirement, besides the slightly distracting “Coffee”, where bassist Doug McKeever takes vocal duties, some of the tracks are somewhat disjointed in terms of sequencing. Though a palate cleanser like “The Pains of Being…” does temporarily slow the album’s pace, it doesn’t do enough to take the album out of its single (albeit great) gear. Despite that minor misstep, Chumped are a welcomely young and messy band, and the strength of these songs more than makes up for it. In a year chock-full of excellent debuts from young punk bands, like Cayetana, Kittyhawk, and PUP, Chumped have enough vitality to stand apart from the rest.
Essential Tracks: “Songs About Boats”, “Name That Thing”, and “Hot 97 Summer Jam”