I bought my first Tegan & Sara album, So Jealous, after my mom commented on the lack of female vocalists in my CD collection. For efficiency’s sake, I found a band with two. So Jealous was the best CD I bought that year. Unfortunately, after hearing that Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie) was producing the follow-up, The Con, I was hesitant to listen.
On The Con, the razor sharp vocals and guitar riffs of So Jealous have been replaced with cutesy lyrics, overly cheeky piano and bizarre synthesizer. As a result, one has to wonder if success and commercialization has taken its toll on the band.
One of the highlights of the album is the title track, which is reminiscent of Tegan & Sara’s last album. The fast-paced, heavier sound mixes well with their powerfully feminine lyrics. They sing, “Non-insistent/I follow suit and layed out on my back/Imagine that.” “Nineteen,” with its staccato-distorted power chord riffs and beautifully harmonized vocals, is about a heartbroken partner in a one-night stand.
“Like O, Like H” features a great guitar melody doubled by a ghostly piano, ending with a panicked cry of “S.O.S.” The musicianship and arrangement in “Nineteen” and “Like O, Like H” displays the duo’s newfound maturity, but unlike the majority of the album, maintains the ferocious notes that made So Jealous memorable.
On The Con, many of the tracks are missing that ferocity. In “Floorplan,” the acoustic guitar riff in the beginning could have been written by the Spin Doctors. It doesn’t receive any help from the mystical synthesizer or the Chopsticksian piano melody at the end. And the vocals are just bland.
Have Tegan & Sara lost their energy, or have they fallen into a trap of commercialization? Who are Tegan & Sara conning: the listeners or themselves?