Review Summary: Relaxation, not revolution.Fair Youth
is an overwhelmingly positive record. Their sophomore release Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony
channelled the band’s anger at modern society and their fears about the future, and they made their frustrations clear through relentless walls of sound and efficacious sound bites - creating a near classic in the process. Fair Youth
in many ways sees Maybeshewill go full circle, and they've realised that the next best thing to engaging the problems of the world head on is to simply provide a reprieve from them. Here, they encourage you to get lost in broad, lush soundscapes and suggest that the best thing you can do for yourself is to switch off entirely and relax, if only for a little while.
The album’s third and longest song ‘You and Me and Everything In Between’ is the epitome of beauty, and it’s surprisingly understated given its lofty running time. Providing us with a lesson in delicate layering, a dainty piano lick is joined first by an electronic wave, then by soft strings and light cymbals before minimalist drumming and a perfectly congruous riff complete the shimmering effect the song builds. Elsewhere, ‘In the Blind’ is more immediate but every bit as brilliant and it’s one of the rare moments where the guitars shine every bit as much as the piano. It’s Maybeshewill at their finest, and the power it conveys is similar to ‘He Films the Clouds, Pt 2’ when everything comes together at the three minute mark. The string driven ‘All Things Transient’ and the gorgeous ‘Permanence’ complete the list of highlights, the former shining because of its organic feel, with the latter benefiting from the stellar drumming of James Collins.
Some of Fair Youth
however feels like Maybeshewill have ripped the meat from the bones, and tightly compressed the mechanically recovered remains into inoffensive, but ultimately unsatisfying pieces. Lead single ‘In Amber’ acts as a prime example, as it skips merrily from start to finish without evolving in the fashion that we've come to expect from the brilliant Leicester five piece. The lead piano line is gorgeous and it drives the song forward, but it suffers from burying the guitars and bass too deep in the mix, and it doesn't grow or vary nearly enough to justify its near 6 minute run time despite its sheen. The same criticism can, to a lesser extent, be levelled at both ‘Asiatic’ and ‘Waking Life,’ as they get lost in the album’s midsection and fail to leave as much of an impression as the songs surrounding them.
Fans of the band’s frenetic early work may be put off initially by the largely mid tempo approach taken here. There are moments when you expect and even will the guitars to be let loose, only for them to remain understated, content to stand alongside and even defer to the prominent piano lines. While this can at times be frustrating, it’s difficult not to admire the restraint demonstrated throughout. There’s a strong sense of cohesion and unity which pervades Fair Youth
, and the focus shown pays testament to the band’s growing maturity as musicians.
I’m aware that it’s unrealistic and downright greedy of me to expect each and every Maybeshewill album to flirt with perfection, but it’s a position which their own consistent brilliance has put them in. Whether they relish the label or not, they will in the minds of many be the finest instrumental rock band in Britain today, and with such an accolade comes an expectant fanbase and an unenviable pressure - though I hope they never feel it. Despite the minor flaws which hamper Fair Youth
it’s still a solid addition to their discography, and it’s likely to provide many with the musical therapy that the band intended.