“Stop! Singing songs about your ex! Stop! Singing songs about the ocean!” — It is in the final moments of Meditation Tape that Vancouver band Necking really establish what they stand for. With Nada Hayek on guitar, Melissa Kuippers on drums, Sonya Rez on bass and backing vocals, and Hannah Karren providing vocals, they collectively roll their eyes at melodramatic ‘serious’ songs about make-up sex or saving the whales. So, if Necking see these topics as akin to “jerk[ing] yourself off,” what do they feel is worth singing about? A quick scan of the song titles provides some clues, as tracks like “Daddy Issues” and “Ford Commercial” suggest that gender roles and commercialism are coming under the hammer. Yet, Necking refuse to play anything straight, coating several repeated lines in a thick layer of irony: “I’m gonna be your daddy now,” “we are four commercial girls / put us in a Ford commercial,” “we want money!”, as well as the aforementioned rebuke of any and all allusions to the ocean. But then again, if you expect a tape whose cover features a cartoon girl riding a purple horse to have its tongue anywhere else than in its cheek, your expectations might be a bit off.
Necking match this rejection of self-seriousness through their music, as their fast-and-loose interpretation of ‘90s alt-rock is delivered with an audacious punk sneer. Their twin vocalists, relatively clean guitar work, and thematic wrestling (albeit simplistically) with gender and wealth, evoke an embryonic – and much more sarcastic – version of Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands On The Bad One. Just as the vocal interplay between Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein defined many of Sleater-Kinney’s greatest moments, Necking best coalesce in “All Melissas Are Keepers,” which highlights both singers through contrast – exasperated anger pushed up against a mocking sing-song delivery. Their screamed lines on how “this body isn’t mine anymore … how can I take back what’s mine” shows a lyrical depth at odds with the playful taunting and chanting that surrounds it. The combined harmonies at the end of “Ford Commercial” are another vocal highpoint, especially as both singers are often only heard in isolation.
As should be expected from a band only several months old, Necking still have yet to fully hit their stride, as the minute-and-a-half long tracks that bookend this EP can feel slightly one-note, and a reliance on single-line chants gives “Ford Commercial” a limited shelf-life. Regardless, Meditation Tape remains a catchy and promising beginning which, like the making out referenced by the band’s name, provides cheap thrills without much thought – and is certainly preferable to anyone droning on about their ex.