I know that nowadays, bands co-opting the sounds of early 80s post-punk/new wave, be they from The Smiths, New Order, or The Cure, is absolutely nothing new (Interpol, Bloc Party, Ladytron, The Faint, Figurine et al, I’m looking in your general direction). But few of them did it half as well as My Favorite. Probably because lead singer/songwriter Michael Grace Jr. so fully indulged in all of those sounds and travelled so far into the musical cliches — e.g., jangly Johnny Marr-esque guitars, billowy synths a la Disintegration, New Order-esque rhythms — that he ultimately came out the other side and the cliches became original, the decades-old sounds fresh yet again.
But unlike so many other bands that My Favorite might get lumped in with, it’s ultimately all about the lyrics. Grace’s lyrics are clever and pretentious, sometimes too much so for their own good (for example, using Joan Of Arc as the metaphorical poster-child for misunderstood and alienated youth everywhere). His lyrics are full of cynicism and sarcasm and cheekiness and hubris and dry wit.
But at the same time, there’s a sense of real teen angst. Not the sort of angst that we see everywhere and is just full of anger and bitterness, but the sort that touches on and manifests itself in a palpable melancholy, displacement, and lostness. These are songs for everyone who fumbled through high school romances; who stayed up too late in their bedroom listening to The Cure, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and This Mortal Coil; who painted their fingernails black without having the comfort of the “goth” label to fall back on; who wrote really bad poetry for that girl in AP English (which, of course, she never ever saw), taken to an almost epic level.
I mean, how can you argue with lyrics such as “Loneliness if pornography to them/But to us it is an art,” “The ghosts of dead teenagers sing to me while I am dancing,” “You did what you did because a pathetic mythology is better than no mythology at all,” or “It is a terrible fall/When your teen idol is proved mortal/And the saddest thing is/I’ll say that I never liked him at all”? Or songs like “Black Cassette,” which is one of the best odes to both burgeoning teenage sexuality and unrequited love I’ve ever heard (perhaps because it comes painfully close to capturing the mood of several non-relationships that I had)?
Sadly, the band is no more, having broken up in 2005. However, they released one final disc on Double Agent Records titled The Happiest Days of Our Lives which compiles a number of their early EPs and throws in an extra disc of remixes to boot. As I pointed out in my review, it’s full of some of the most stirring 80s pop to be written in the 21st century.