Youth Group - The Night Is Ours
Record Label: Worlds Fair Records
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Indie-poppers from Down Under, Youth Group broke through in the U.S. with the Epitaph re-release of their sophomore album Skeleton Jar. The band heightened their stature with the follow-up, 2007's Casino Twilight Dogs, which rode on the success of the single "Forever Young."
How Is It?
The Night Is Ours is not the gorgeous work that Casino Twilight Dogs was, though it definitely has its impressive moments. On this album, Youth Group expand their horizons, experimenting with a slightly more raw sound (for them), and vocalist Toby Martin utilizes his lower register more frequently than in the past. On their earlier albums, even the songs dealing with weightier subject matter had a lighter-than-air feel, and while there are definitely occasions on this record with similar texture, it just sounds heavier overall.
Those expecting to float away like a feather on the breeze to Martin's ethereal vocal will be immediately surprised at the somber tone in which he opens the album on "Good Time," a sparsely accompanied number that eschews the band's typical adherence to traditional song structure. The surprises keep coming with "One for Another," whose driving post-punk rhythm sounds more like Interpol than anything Youth Group have done previously. These changeups are well-executed and indicative of an ambitious and growing band. Less successful are the flitting synths and buzzing guitars that pop up on "Two Sides," which really detract from the feel of the song.
In general, though, the added dimensionality is a positive thing, as evidenced on "Dying at Your Own Party," in which Martin's solemn expression sets the appropriate mood, a feat that would have been impossible using his classic fluttering croon. The band really puts it all together on the album's centerpiece, "All This Will Pass," the perfect single, featuring catchy reverb-y guitars and a straight-forward memorable hook, with Martin using his whole range, to excellent effect. Showing that they're not willing to completely abandon their familiar style, Youth Group are very much in Casino Twilight Dogs form on the beautiful "Friedrichstrasse," with its shimmering guitars and an arresting performance by Martin.
Later tracks like "A Sign" and "Babies in Your Dreams," come off as a bit lackluster in comparison to the rest of the album, the latter not quite saved by the addition of horns and twinkling piano, but they make way for the late album highlight "In My Dreams." With Martin haunted by vivid images, it's the type of introspective tune that the band has seemed to find a comfort zone in historically and it's true in this case as well. Youth Group fittingly draw the album to a close with the characteristically thoughtful "What Is a Life?," which displays Martins uncanny talent for dramatizing the mundane.
Overall, The Night Is Ours is a fascinating effort. It may take time for some of the tracks to permeate the consciousness, but in most cases, patience is rewarded. The band certainly can't be accused of rehashing their earlier material, the new direction perhaps partially attributable to working with Chris Walla, who mixed the album, in addition to contributing vocals and guitar work. The move to a more organic sound is somewhat analogous to the sonic changes engineered by Walla for his own band, Death Cab for Cutie's recent Narrow Stairs, though their tried-and-true style does play heavily into the mix. This new album will likely please and intrigue fans of the band's previous albums as well as potentially earn new fans from those who found their earlier work to be a bit too light-and-fluffy. It's a worthy addition into the Youth Group canon.
Their first two were incredible. Both Skeleton Jar and Casino Twilight Dogs get tons of spins in my house every year. The latter is just awesome. I really do love CTD. Nice review Jeremy. Such a good band.
Great review, I pretty much agree completely. The album is more of a grower than their previous releases for sure. I'm a big fan, so I've had this since it was released in Australia last summer. Definitely worth owning, as you might guess from my avatar (that's the Australian cover art). "Dying at Your Own Party" is a gorgeous song.
Amazing band. I was frightfully unaware of this release, so thanks for the review.
Review seemed to analyze the music very well with a very fair, self aware lens, which I greatly appreciated. One wonders, given time, if that rating will go up after many and future listens as some albums just take time to simmer.