Massachusetts-bred Jedediah Smith leads My Teenage Stride, an ’80s cover band that performs its own songs. MTS variously apes the Smiths, Go-Betweens, New Order and a dozen other new wave luminaries, performing originals that are often terrific and not altogether derivative.
The diverse A Sad Cloud veers from Jam-inspired bounce (“Blackbeard’s Ghost”) to faux-gospel balladry (“Jesus Will Never Let Me Down”) with ease. Smith was quick to develop the band’s formula, with no song here exceeding four minutes and all the sharp edges ground down to pop nostalgia. Belle and Sebastian may be able to pull off a song about “High School,” but here it just sounds precious; My Teenage Stride isn’t quite ready to be taken seriously.
Major Major tightens up the sound and improves the songwriting, although singing about the “Happy Mondays” in 2007 is typical of Smith’s anachronism. Elsewhere, the band rehashes “High School,” imitates Jonathan Richman with aplomb (“Pity Poem”) and rocks out convincingly (“Bathing St. Apostrophe”). Better, but not there yet.
My Teenage Stride finally hit its stride on Ears Like Golden Bats. The sound is still strictly from a John Hughes film, but the songs are so strong here that it doesn’t matter. At its best, the album bravely veers into anthem territory: “To Live and Die in the Airport Lounge” rips off the lick from New Order’s “Ceremony” and rides it into an thrilling coda of “whoa-whoa-whoas.” The guitar chords from “Reversal” would make Johnny Marr green with envy, while “Ruin” is a pretty, heartfelt ballad. Ears Like Golden Bats proves that originality can be overrated.