- All 'bout that hustle: Baby Teeth
If you thought Weezer was the end-all power-pop skewering of our culture's more vapid aspects, there are plenty of newer groups that also walk the line of providing a simultaneous soundtrack for and critique of our particular mindlessness. For Baby Teeth pianist and bandleader Abraham Levitan, that list would include a couple of Pittsburgh faves: Gil Mantera's Party Dream and Girl Talk.
"You have to be super nerds to come up with stuff like that," Levitan says, and he intends it as praise: He proudly cops to his own super-nerd status, and that of his Chicago-based band. Baby Teeth will play Your Inner Vagabond on Sun., Aug. 2 (a show organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner); the band's last Pittsburgh appearance was as part of the art event I Am a Heather.
The band, which includes drummer Peter Andreadis and bassist Jim Cooper, combines strutting, keys-based glam-pop with hints of ELO and Queen -- a snarkier, less hair-metal take on The Darkness, pehaps. Baby Teeth's new album, Hustle Beach, just came out on Lujo Records, and emerged out of Levitan's songwriting blog -- he generated a song a week for a year, which readers could rate.
The album's title track is "about somebody who finds this place that seems like paradise, and decides he's going to move there and work himself to death, to try to make as much money off that paradise as he can," says Levitan. Over suggestive, Miami Vice funk, he sings lines like "You ain't in a band unless the band makes money / You own a chain of lemonade stands before you're twenty / Nothing you do ain't bout that hustle." The cover art, a photo of a muddy business suit and briefcase washed up on a beach, suggests the hustler's demise.
Other songs are more ambiguous, like the anthemic opening track, "Big Schools," which gives Mellencampian fervor to the tale of a romance between a football player and a cheerleader just starting out at a big state school, and their eventual middle-age nostalgia. It's a perfect song to blast during a keg stand -- if you don't listen too closely to the words.
For the album's overall theme, "I was inspired by these kind of all-inclusive resort setups," Levitan says -- such as Sandals. "It seems like everybody who goes there is doing this forced march through these fun activities, and meanwhile there are hundreds of people behind the scenes trying to guide every move."
Ideally, Hustle Beach will work as both commentary and soundtrack -- part super-nerd manifesto, part bid for half-disdained popularity. "Maybe that's too ambitious," Levitan says, but "I'd like to think it's possible to be both."
Baby Teeth with Zechs Marquise and Dean Cercone. 8 p.m. Sun., Aug. 2. Your Inner Vagabond, 4130 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $8. All ages. 412-683-1623 or www.yourinnervagabond.com