The great expanse of Wisconsin to this day remains a wild frontier to many. Even to its own sons and daughters, the thought often persists that perhaps there are demons in the woods, or something unknown in the water. It can be no mistake then that Tenement were raised in these woods and drank of this water. Over the course of their nine year career to date, their work ethic and musical ideas have often been attributed to an outsider mentality and a stubborn individualism. The energy they conjure at will might also at times seem just short of some kind of sorcery. Now, with the release of their new double record, Predatory Headlights, their place in the modern world of music has become distinct. They’re no longer only an obscure punk band from the farthest reaches of society’s consciousness, but also one of America’s great outsider pop groups.
The principal songwriter of this trio is Amos Pitsch. He founded the group in 2007 with bassist Jesse Ponkamo, and the two embraced Eric Mayer as their full time drummer some years later. As a live act, they’re an assault on the ears, a confusing spectacle, and a dispensary of remedies for the lonely and misunderstood all at once. In a studio setting, as you’ll hear in Predatory Headlights, their touch is delicate and thoughtful even at its loudest moments. You can hear the strong influence of bands like The Descendents, The Ramones, and even more primitive groups in the playing and execution. But the influence of luminaries such as Ruth Crawford Seeger, William S Fischer, and Robert Kirby are evident in the addition of strings to the pop songs that could stand sturdy on their own even without them. Still upon repeated listening, you might be able to catch an array of other influences, ranging from northern soul to exotica to the avant garde. These are stirred in with ease; something Tenement does naturally as their intention is always steadfast and absolute. In other words, when something needs to be pretty, they make it pretty. And when something needs to be ugly, they leave no gloss, shimmer, or sheen. They strangle the song bird of its TWEET TWEET – and let it cough.
Predatory Headlights was completed over the course of three years with the assistance of engineer and co-producer, Justin Perkins. Pitsch has often cited Perkins’ involvement in early 2000’s groups Yesterday’s Kids and The Obsoletes as a heavy influence. Perkins also worked with Tenement on their 2011 offering, Napalm Dream, as well as acclaimed records by the likes of The Goodnight Loving, The Sugar Stems, and The Mystery Girls. The bulk of Predatory Headlights was written and recorded at BFG in Appleton, Wisconsin – Tenement’s home and personal studio. The house was symbolically demolished within days of finishing the record, and in a fitting display of finality, three years of sweat and nightmares and beauty and dissonance returned to the soil and found its way back into the water and woods with only this document to prove it ever even existed at all. Thanks to Don Giovanni Records, you hold the very document in your hands – Tenement’s newest window into the nature of the human being and the complexity of life: Predatory Headlights.Tracklist: