Review Summary: A phenomenal debut, this Aussie trio portray their many moods in what's sure to be deemed a future classic.
Youth Group is a strange name, but suiting. Youth groups encourage kids and teens to "Go get 'em, Tiger!" and "Stay in school!". Youth groups make kids meet new friends, dissect worms with a spoon and play in trees with other children their age. Maybe they have an unhappy home life. Maybe their only output from the miserable wreck that they live would be to get together with forty other kids, a councelor or two and just unwind. Forgetting about the events of the day. But hey, this metaphor isn't getting anywhere. Time to tie the knot together.
You see, the band Youth Group came out with their stunningly gorgeous debut in 2004, Skeleton Jar. Eleven songs of pure eclectic energy focused into several different styles of pop rock, indie rock and perhaps even a small stint with what music buffs call "pop punk", and what regular kids call "emo". Not to confuse the reader, this is not the term to be used with this album.
But really, what is? The band shuffle through many styles of music with this album, it's quite impossible to sum it up with one word. We have their energetic performances of extremely dark and edgy rock songs with an almost achingly poignant dark twist, as portrayed by the title track, "Last Quarter" and "Why Don't the Buildings Cry?", all of which could be classified as "pop" music, but maintaining a feel that one just can't put their finger on, but one way to go would be melancholic. "Last Quarter", for example is a song that follows a simplistic slightly fast - slow - slightly faster feel, and in 2:00 it becomes a staple because of it's portrayal of Youth Group's knowledge of how to keep their listeners guessing because of their dark auras. However, this would be only one way to describe Youth Group.
Other descriptions come to mind. A light breezy acoustic piece called "Lillian Lies" is a more folk-oriented piece, but again with a darker aura around it, mainly lying in the lazily mumbled vocals that can be interpreted two ways - purely lazy, or icy. "Piece of Wood" is the finale song, and as hard as it is to realize it does sum up the album well, which is quite an accomplishment for this album. It's a slow piece with acoustic guitar plucking the song of the angels accompanied with piano, and a very gloomy twist in the lyrics, like "All I am is the tail of worm, cut from something squirming". Somewhat dark, but in the end it comes out as a somewhat triumphant experience from the sheer passion displayed in the song. The opening song "Shadowland" is a very poppy song, probably the lightest on the album. Little to no distortion, a very joyous vocal performance and an overall feel-good sound. It's up to the listener to decipher it's meaning, however, because the lyrics either mean passing into a happy place or a bummer-in-the-summer kind of narration. Clearly, such decisions aren't hard to make judging from the music, but more lyric-focused listeners should have a bit of a doozie on their hands.
In the end, Youth Group are
like a youth group. They're very theraputic, well at least sometimes. It's a place to rest your weary head at the end of the day, it's also a place to lay your head in your hand and cry. It's like a healer for your wounds or helps you realize pains you've never recognized. Varying their styles and moods can sometimes make a combination of an overall effect, so it's hard to sum up such an album. But in the end, whether you like more depressing music, fun poppy music or completely dazzling music ebbed with melancholy, this album is a fantastic listen. Highly reccomended.