This Chicago based outfit bill themselves as a “party angst” band. There’s a small amount of angst cutting through the core of their debut full length album ‘Home’, but rarely any emotions you’d want to spend any length of time with. In fact, any decent levels are angst often end up swamped by bigger levels of dirge and whining. ‘Home’ sounds rough around the edges, as if most of it was taken straight off the mixing desk as a live in the studio recording; this approach suits many blues and garage rock bands, but given Young Jesus’ s more complex sound, this technique squashes half of the album’s more intricate elements, while making most of the album unlistenable.
Things start relatively softly with John Rossiter’s vocal – a croon in every sense of the word – backed by jangling electric guitars. Various rimshots are used as percussion, while the actual drums are used almost as sparingly as the rest of the instrumentation. Interest builds, and the band launches into the song’s key sentiment: “Your family and friends will never die”. This becomes a line repeated almost ad nauseam throughout the remainder of the number, until it becomes, at first, almost numbing and then various states of boring. The vocals lift from a wobbling croon to a full on shout in a farther attempt to build any tension. Nothing here holds any interest beyond the third listen.
‘David’ ups the ante musically, but has a really hollow sound. The vocals move between the previous croon and an indie yelp as Young Jesus’s frontman shamelessly models himself on Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, although without any of the charm. The drums add a few moments of interest – as do the layers of garage rock fuelled guitars which present during the closing moments – but, on the whole, this is little more than a four minute slog. For the first half of ‘News’, the band jangles away merrily (but often unremarkably) while Rossiter’s voice croons and cracks. There’s a brief moment of light midway, as the drums and bass come together in an almost 60s mod/soul fashion, but then for the inevitable climax, the band crashes through a few more bars unconvincingly. All the while, Rossiter squeals and shouts like he’s suffering from internal bleeding.
Presenting the band’s quieter tendencies, ‘Earthquake’ pits Rossiter’s vocal against a softly plucked acoustic guitar – kind of in a Tindersticks fashion – and the ghostly backing vocals add something extra to the generally haunting mood. Sparseness is obviously this band’s strongest suit, so it’s a pity most of the record is far more intent on being filled with ragged, noise based material. ‘Not Quite Dead’ has elements which never quite gel, as the band pound out a slow repetitive riff over several minutes, often masked by distortion. Each end of the song is bookended by slightly threatening softer material, which has the end result of making the whole thing sound like two half formed ideas welded together. It may just about work as a brooding, lengthy mood piece, but something resembling a song? Just forget it.
‘Away’ is another mid-paced slab of indie rock that’s driven by pounding drums and buzzing guitars. During the verses, Peter Martin’s drums add a few nice rolls while the rest of the band ambles along like a cut price version of The Wedding Present. If you like The Wedding Present, obviously, their influence could be seen as a good thing. But, then again, if you do happen to like The Wedding Present, then there’s no point in listening to this; time would be better spent with your much-loved and well-worn copies of ‘George Best’ and ‘Seamonsters’. The chorus turns up the intensity and volume – and, sadly, yes, the yelping – and does its best to kill the mood. Similarly, ‘The Greater Boulders’ brings a few reasonable elements via a solid bassline and crashy chords, but half the time the vocals are at odds with the music…and even if you can find anything to hold your interest for more than a minute, there’s no avoiding the whole thing resembles a Pixies reject which outstays its welcome.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but this release by Young Jesus is an album that’s as unremarkable (and as low-budget) as its packaging. A few more bucks spent of beefing up their sound may have improved things sonically, but there’s little help for a frontman who spends most of the time channelling various David Gedge-ism’s, piss-poor Nick Cave impersonations or sounding like a drunk on a karaoke machine who thinks he sounds like Ian Curtis. There are a couple of brief glimpses of talent, but unless you’re an indie-rock/pop fan with far too much time on your hands, this release offers absolutely nothing to get excited about. As for the promised party angst, that often equates to “mood killer”. Avoid.