When it comes to music, an often overused phrase I hear regarding bands is something along the lines of “wow, their sound has really matured”. More often than not, it hasn’t and the listener is left listening to an album that’s about the same as the last. This is definitely not the case with “In Limbo”, the newest album by Teenage Bubblegums. This trio from Italy has been maturing their sound over the last 10 years with each and every album they’ve released… “In Limbo” is no exception.
What I love about Teenage Bubblegums is their no nonsense approach to pop punk, and yes, I still consider it pop punk. Each song hits you one after another like rapid fire and before you can even get comfy you realize you’re already on your second spin of the album. If you’re looking for a lyrically light-hearted, feel good album about sunshine and daisies, this may not be the album for you. What Teenage Bubblegums does so well is deliver self-described songs about “sad stuff” in the catchiest way possible that’s both dark and mesmeric.
The album is only 14 minutes long, but that doesn’t matter. I can almost guarantee that you’ll listen to this album over and over again in a single sitting to make up any time you feel they may have shorted you. The dueling brother and sister vocals along with the cohesiveness of the songs draw you in deep and keep you wanting more. There’s not a lot of variation in tempo in these songs, but that’s part of the charm. Teenage Bubblegums kicks in the door, announces that they’re here, and then leaves the door wide open reminding you that they were there.
They begin the album with a short intro, a journey into the darkness that “In Limbo” is going to lead you through. Immediately after the intro comes bass player Ally’s menacing band announcement and laugh, letting you know it’s go time! They immediately dive into “Quit It”, the first song on the album. We’re greeted with Luca’s blistering hi-hats as well as a heavy guitar and bass that carry through the entirety of the album. This song is about expecting more from life and the desire to “quit it” and it really sets you up for the dismal tone of the rest of the album.
Lyrically there is definitely a theme throughout the entire album, and each song is a short poetic, yet dejected masterpiece. The entirety of “In Limbo” to me tells the story of a few lost souls wandering in a state of ignorance and sadness, unable to find their way through a doomed reality. It wasn’t until I read the lyrics on their Bandcamp that I realized how dark and deep this album really is. It also shows that a lot can be said in a short amount of words.
Each track is fast, catchy and provides plenty of opportunity to sing along. They’re mostly straightforward, but there are a few surprises in a few of them. For example, “Burn” has a nice breakdown that happens almost out of nowhere and adds another great element to the song musically. Teenage Bubblegums doesn’t allot themselves a ton of time, so they make it a point to do as much as they can in the amount they’ve given themselves.
The title track, “In Limbo”, like the others, is short and to the point and features a great hook in the form of a call and response between the siblings. The guitar and bass almost dance in the background while the drums drive you through the song. The pounding floor tom towards the end provides a nice intermission before the chorus picks up again to finish it out.
The song “High” doesn’t hesitate to propel you directly to the pre-chorus and chorus. Before you know it you’re singing along to the song, it ends and it’s on to the next one. The most mysterious thing I find with Teenage Bubblegums’ lyrics is that it’s not always obvious to the listener what they’re about exactly. My interpretation of “High” is that it tells a story of a person suffering from a closetted depression and drug addiction, clinging to life alone while no one knows. Pairing subject matter like that with catchy songs is what makes this band stand out from the rest.
My favorite song, “Shame”, starts off with a heavy riff that teeters between chords like a seesaw. There’s something about the tone in Marco’s voice at the beginning that give this song a different feel to it. When you hear the catchiness of the chorus, “Baby I’m on fire!”, you almost forget that the song is about someone who is overcome with so much humiliation and loneliness that they feel like they’re “on fire”. The song structure is almost a mirror of itself. Not only do I love how the verse is repeated between the two singers before coming together in the chorus, I also love that in the first verse Marco sings first, and in the second verse Ally sings first. Lyrically, it’s a very well thought out song.
If you’re from the United States, hopefully you were fortunate to catch Teenage Bubblegums on their tour that just wrapped up. If you enjoy streaming “In Limbo”… you’ll most definitely enjoy seeing it played live. I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed with this album, because as I alluded to earlier, Teenage Bubblegums is a band that gets exponentially better with every single one of their releases. They pull off something most bands of a specific genre cannot, and that’s putting their own brand on it. Although this album is short, it’s very clear that they spent a lot of time and effort on it. “In Limbo” was just released and I already want more!