The iJamming! Download: Youth Group
I raved like a madman about Aussie band Youth Group’s third album, Casino Twilight Dogs, here at iJamming!, and listening through to it once more before writing this post hasn’t altered my opinion whatsoever. It remains an immensely beautiful record, every bit the equal of anything by – better than, I would personally argue – the groups with which Youth Group are most frequently compared, Coldplay and Death Cab For Cutie. Yet, though the group are something of a success story in Australia, I felt like I was swimming against the tide in my enthusiasm for them Stateside: when the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll came around at the end of 2007 – and it’s a reasonable reflection of critical tastes, given how many music journalists contribute – I was the only one to place Casino Twilight Dogs in his or her top ten.
But perhaps I was not alone in my enthusiasm, after all. For when Youth Group’s fourth album, The Night Is Ours, is released in America this April (it’s been out down under since last summer), the quartet will come over to the States – and stay here. At least for a while. After playing South By South West in Austin, Texas, in mid-March, they’ll be relocating to New York for a month, from where they will embark on weekly residencies at Piano’s in Manhattan, TT The Bears in Boston, and M Room in Philadelphia, playing each venue four times before heading out to California for a similar exercise throughout May. It seems such an obvious idea, and yet it also seems like an original one; I can’t remember the last time a band from overseas came to America and decided to work on building coastal followings through residencies rather than the usual quick in-and-out visit, or the soul-destroying cross-country tour. Youth Group have experience in the latter – “man, we thought Australia was hard to drive across!,” said drummer Danny Allen in a press release that accompanied the annoucement – but I suspect the residency approach will serve them better. Having somehow missed out on their visit for Casino Twlight Dogs I’ll be sure not to make the same mistake this time.
In our Internet-accessed world, you might safely assume that American Youth Group fans would already have their copies of The Night Is Ours, but not this one – and I’m not about to spend $35 on an import, either. Instead, I eagerly accepted the offer from American label World’s Fair to download/stream the song “All Things Will Pass,” which happily lived up to hopes. Toby Martin’s voice can sound so similar to that of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, and the two groups are such good friends – in fact, they spent Feb 09 on tour together in Australia – that it’s impossible not to make that comparison. World’s Fair lists some other obvious reference points, too: the Replacements, the Church, the Triffids, the Shins and Snow Patrol. You get the idea. But on “All Things Will Pass” you can also hear a massive Smiths influence, from the opening acoustic guitar riff stolen straight from “Bigmouth Strikes Again” to a deeper, more Morrissey-esque tone in Martin’s voice. With Casino Twilight Dogs, Youth Group rose above the sum of all these influences (which certainly include Crowded House and R.E.M. too) to create a sound of their own; on The Night Is Ours, which they recorded in a converted, previously-derelict mess hall on the Sydney Harbor, I trust they’ve managed to do the same.
The American release of The Night Is Ours may be a solid nine months behind the Australian one, but at least it exists. As yet there is no scheduled release date for the new album in the UK. But if the free MP3 of “All Things Will Pass” twists your melon (man), then I recommend British readers further whet their appetites at the band’s MySpace page, then poke around iTunes to see if the new album is available, consider an amazon style import – or simply go back an album and purchase Casino Twlight Dogs (online, right now, @ 79p a song) and see if you’re not converted. Because great album remain great albums forever.
(Last time I wrote about Youth Group, it was in the old iJamming Who/What/Why/Whine/Wine format. Seems a shame not to take the opportunity then to plug my recent review of the Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Vat 1 Aged Release Semillon 1994, grown and bottled barely two hours outside Sydney – because, like a Youth Group record, great wine doesn’t grow old quickly, either.)