A quick glance at Human Television’s press photos might give you the idea that these Florida transplants are here to provide a dose of the unpretentious, substance-over-style rock music that’s been missing for a few years now, or at least has been overshadowed by fashion-conscious revivalists of once forgotten genres. The band foregoes tight-fitting suits and asymmetrical haircuts in favor of a more laid back look: ragged jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and genuinely — as opposed to stylishly — messed up hair. It’s a look that says, “I know what’s really important,” and as some will recognize, it’s just as easily linked to early-90s American indie rock as all those suits and synths are to 80s New Wave. That link is even more evident once you spend some time with their debut full-length, Look At Who You’re Talking To.
The most immediately striking component of Human Television’s sound is the guitar. It’s perpetually jangly and deliciously upbeat, calling to mind all those underrated Teen Beat and Sarah Records bands who stood at the forefront of what some considered a Golden Age for our lovably nerdy counterculture. The production style is understated and really, barely noticeable; everything’s crisp and relatively clear, but refreshingly free of any sterilizing sheen. The subject matter covered by frontman Billy Downing — boredom, failed relationships, etc. — is far from revolutionary, but the phrasing and presentation of his lyrics boast enough subtle nuance to take something fairly standard and make it extraordinary. There are hints of textured gloominess (‘I’m Moving On’) every now and then, but it’s not a mood that suits them particularly well. They’re at their best on upbeat tracks like ‘I Laughed’ and ‘In Front of the House’, where their sunshiny melodies take center stage.
Haters will accuse Human Television of being unoriginal, and I guess they’ll be right. But, honestly? Fuck that. They’ve placed their influences squarely on their sleeves and made a pitch perfect summer record like I haven’t heard in years. And if that’s not enough for you, I think you’re skinny little tie needs loosening.