Review Summary: "Youth" proves that a collection of bare-bones songs can still have a lot of meat on them.
There is a principle in the design industry that attributes the success of an advertising campaign or corporate branding to its restraint and minimalism. In essence, compelling and efficient design is achieved through subtraction, not addition - extra weight simply dilutes the message. The same could be said of music, where less is more and that within the art of storytelling you only need the basics to get your point across sufficiently. Youth
proves this theory true with a more stripped down and refined version of past endeavors wrapped up in a surprisingly simple package. Simplicity is often dismissed as boring or lacking in effort, but it's quite the opposite; it's cutting the fat and letting you get directly to the heart of whatever it is you hope to convey - which this Midwest quintet seems to understand perfectly.
Citizen successfully find their footing on their debut full length in a more despondent and gloomy version of their former selves. What this album lacks in energy it makes up for in honesty and resolution. This record doesn't have an air of hopelessness, but where their prior EP's and splits have sounded a bit more upbeat and angst ridden this feel considerably more dejected both lyrically and musically. Slower, more calculated songs take the limelight on Youth
with less emphasis on hooks and more on emphatic vocal presence and brooding instrumental backing. The music serves as an effective vessel for Mat Kerekes voice that accompanies his emotive delivery tremendously without ever becoming overbearing in any sense.
Coincidentally their label-mates Turnover
have followed a similar path after their split with Citizen last year. Producer Will Yip (who also worked on Magnolia
, the latest Turnover album) seems to have a knack for bringing out a more measured, comfortable and truthful sound in the artists he works with. There has been this surprisingly efficient movement of grunge meets pop/punk and post-hardcore lately of which Citizen could potentially take the helm and push it in an exciting (albeit more morose) direction.
Despite all of its highlights, Youth
begs for a bit more energy in certain areas. A few tracks on this album such as the lead singles "The Summer" and the hard-hitting opener "Roam The Room" have a certain fire and bite to them that other tracks on the record are just dying for. "The Night I Drive Alone" and "Sick And Impatient" show some of that same intensity as the aforementioned songs but it's fairly sparse throughout the 10 track offering (which is really on the short side for what's being called an LP at just barely over 30 minutes running time). This is truly an excellent debut album in every sense that shows immense potential for what their future records have in store. Citizen has found a near perfect balance that could just use a few extra splashes of intensity behind Mr. Kerekes burning words in what is otherwise a potent and passionate recipe for for success.