CD Review of The Con by Tegan and Sara

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The Con
starstarstarstarno star Label: Sire
Released: 2007
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Tegan and Sara, everyone’s favorite Canadian identical twin lesbian indie-rockers, are back with The Con, the follow-up to 2005’s So Jealous, which featured “Walking with a Ghost,” their biggest hit to date and a song so damn hip the White Stripes covered it. While it remains to be seen if The Con will catch the attention of other pale-skinned Detroit rockers, it wouldn’t be surprising to find someone out there offering up their interpretation of “Back in Your Head,” “I Was Married,” or any of the other great pop tunes that fill The Con.

Tegan and Sara seem to be one of the few Canadian indie-pop acts of note that are not in some way associated with the New Pornographers or any of its members, so they have a unique sound that many of their hockey-loving contemporaries do not. Their amazing ability to combine grrl-rock sensibilities with pop hooks encourages comparisons to artists as diverse as Sleater-Kinney, Ani DiFranco, Luscious Jackson and PJ Harvey. It’s heartfelt, emotional music that you can dance to that isn’t emo, and that is a rare accomplishment these days.

While Tegan and Sara haven’t had any help from Neko Case, A.C. Newman or any other Canadian alt-rock superstar, they certainly have their fair share of high-profile fans, many of which helped them out on The Con. Contributors include Matt Sharp from the Rentals and Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie’s Christopher Walla and Jason McGerr (Walla also produced the album), and even AFI’s most-current bass player. One can only assume that Dave Grohl didn’t show up because he too was busy working with Juliette Lewis’ punk rock group.

Thankfully they didn’t let any of their guest artists contribute to the songwriting process, so none of Death Cab’s boring bullshit emo, the Rentals’ weirdness or AFI’s all-around suckage creep into The Con. As with every album preceding, the Quinn sisters wrote all the songs on The Con, and while they may be a little more poppy then their previous efforts, they share the same glowing charm and personality of their earlier recordings.

This charm is occasionally masked in slightly-menacing tunes, though. The country-twang beginning of “Knife Goes In” is as creepy as the song’s title, and the upbeat melodies of “Dark Come Soon” help to hide the morbid theme of the song, made evident with lines like “Dark you can’t come soon enough for me.” The whole darkness-as-death metaphor may sound derivative of Death Cab’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” and that may be the case, but at least Tegan and Sara’s take on it won’t leave you wanting to slice your wrists.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though; “Hop a Plane” is a triumphant and uplifting song about moving past a bad relationship, and while the commitment-phobic lyrics of “Back in Your Head” may sound a little down, the upbeat melody turns it into a feel-good song about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Nothing on The Con is as addictive or catchy as “Walking with a Ghost,” “Take Me Anywhere,” or any of the other great songs on So Jealous, but it’s just as good as – if not better than – that record, and shows that the Quinn sisters are still growing as songwriters and performers.

~James B. Eldred