Review Summary: Were you considered an insufferable ponce for singing with a French accent back in ‘95?
The Young Gods were one of those 90’s bands who were supposed to break through to the next level of success but for whatever reason hit an impenetrable ceiling to their ambitions. In 1995 the big time came a-knockin' for this Swiss industrial tinged three-piece when they were snapped up by Interscope for the release of their fifth album; the band certainly rose to the occasion, laying down the positively monolithic ‘Only Heaven’, and yet despite their best endeavours that true breakthrough moment remained stubbornly elusive. The reason for this failure is hard to pinpoint; were The Young Gods too experimental for the industrial crowd or was their music dismissed for lacking the required level of harshness. Put bluntly, did Franz Treichler’s strong accent prove far too...well, 'French', for the mainstream rock fan to stomach?
A large portion of industrial rock comes across stiffer than C-3PO's dinner jacket so one of the great boons of The Young Gods approach is that they sound so elastic and supple; these refined Europeans never resort to the unsophisticated approach of repetitively pummelling your senses to oblivion. Instead abstract loops and waves of synth provide sensual textures more commonly associated with dance genres like trance to give the album a unique crossover flavour. The synthesis of these elements feels totally natural and the overall effect when combined with the thundering drums and sleekly ferocious guitars is of a futuristic tribal communion of orgasmic proportions. In particular the sixteen minute mini-suite ‘Moon Revolutions’ sounds like it could break free of the Earth’s gravity and shoot off into the cosmos at any moment.
When The Young Gods give in to their base urge to slap the listener around the chops the results are quite something to behold; ‘Kissing the Sun’ is clinical in delivering that hit of adrenaline every time the drums and guitars spring into life and the song practically begs for you to turn that volume dial to maximum; ‘Strangel’ is more of a churner and those bass tones in the chorus clearly inspired Bowie on his ‘97 Earthling album; while ‘Speed of Night’ captures the addictive sensation of coolly gliding through a tunnel at high velocity perfectly.
The 'atypical for industrial' white sleeve and album title are most clearly reflected in the more ambient material presented here, the most impressive examples of which being the trip hop inflected ‘Donnesz Les Esprits’ and the gurgling liquid textures of ‘Dreamhouse’. Flashes of these styles pepper all the songs on ‘Only Heaven’ and give the album added depth and a unified spirit, a sort of woozy narcotic dream state running underneath the surface layers.
Overall the album has aged incredibly well with Roli Mossiman’s impeccable production in particular standing out as way ahead of the game; so when you also take into consideration the album’s visionary musical approach it becomes a real head scratcher trying to understand why this album remains such a forgotten and unheralded work. It’s 2015; everyone owns at least one Air album, surely we’ve now arrived at the point where we can accept a rock star singing with a thick French accent. Ah oui? Très bon.