I graduated high school in 1994. During my senior year, 10,000 Maniacs' Our Time In Eden still had a pretty solid grip on the airwaves. My song was "These Are Days."
I have a sharp memory of driving into the parking lot of my high school for a speech tournament, cranking "These Are Days," feeling acutely on the precipice between youth and adulthood, between today and tomorrow, between nothing and everything. You know, just high school shit.
Totally Michael is an artist who makes records for seniors in high school. This is not a bad thing. It means that I am not his target audience, as a 32-year-old father of one with a mortgage and a wife and a lawnmower. It just means he does what he does, and those who are of the right age and mind to receive what he does may derive great enjoyment from it.
The best way to describe the sound of Totally Michael's self-titled debut album is probably "electro-punk." That may be marketing jargon I got from the PR materials, or something I read online someplace; wherever it came from, it fits. Totally Michael puts together his songs from the bleeps and blips of computer software, supported by his guitar and vocal; in a live setting, he sings and plays to a backing track running off his iPod.
From a songwriting perspective, Totally Michael immediately made me think of blink -182, if blink-182 had come up in the year 2045 instead of the late nineties. Imagine Travis Barker and the boys inside their cryosuits of pliable microsteel, mentally transmitting three chords and some frat boy puns into a computer the size of a walnut. Fast, clean, direct tunes with the occasional clever line and a relentless focus on everything being awesome all the time.
Lyrically, Totally Michael's songs are about going out, having fun, and living forever. What else do teenagers care about, really? On the lead single "Winona," he professes his love for Winona Ryder; I'd point out Matthew Sweet already did so, on his 1991 album Girlfriend, but that's gotta be ancient history to Mr. Michael.
There's a song called "Prom Night." It's about prom night. It's a story told in a relatively clever way, but unless you're currently looking forward to prom night, or looking back on a prom night in recent memory, then you probably won't feel the need to crank this tune on the stereo. (Spoiler alert: The song's narrator wins prom king. Shocker!)
"Cheerleaders vs. Drillteam" is about the age-old battle between…well, between the girls who are cheerleaders and the girls on the drill team. Again, it's not relatable to anyone who isn't a cheerleader or a drill team dancer; but if you are one, or are totally like BFF with one, then this song will probably kick your ass all over the place.
I love the energy of this record, and I'm intrigued by the way it sounds. Replacing the gut-punch sound of punk pop with electronics and keyboards makes your ears perk up; you start listening for the bits in between the vocals.
But this energy, this sound, doesn't have anything to do with me, really. It's highly recommended for teens, although if you're a parent of such a teen, I feel obligated to point out the song "Casual Satisfaction" features a sexually explicit chorus about casual sex, and while I wouldn't consider myself to be a prude, it's kinda embarassing for me to listen to sometimes. Especially at work.
Unless you're between the ages of 16 and 20, Totally Michael is not really for you. It's got the vitality of youth, for a young audience on the cusp of the rest of their lives. However, if you are a teenager, then get this fucking record, because it is whatever word you kids use these days to indicate "cool" or "rad" or "phat."