Review Summary: Say yes to life!
I can probably count on one hand the albums that have actually moved
me in my adult life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found plenty of music deeply engrossing and marvelously intricate, but it’s usually an objective take on something I find interesting
– not something that grabs me by the soul and refuses to let go. Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor
comes to mind, among a select few. There’s something about being a full-fledged adult that kills a part of you, though. In between working every day and keeping the marriage alive, it’s a gloriously happy, boring lifestyle. And even though it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I can’t recall the last time I was so deliriously head-over-heels for a piece of music like I am for Go Farther In Lightness
– the sophomore masterpiece from out-of-fucking-nowhere Gang of Youths. Imagine that Matt Berninger of The National had a life-altering crisis, came through it a better person with more passion and zest for life, and then decided to chronicle those rampant emotions on a seventy-eight minute experience produced by Bruce Springsteen. Yeah, it’s as fucking incredible as it sounds.
Two weeks ago I had no clue who Gang of Youths were. I was something like seven hours into Science Fiction
, refusing to admit that there could actually be an album out there, this year, that is better. I’d like to think my lack of familiarity with the band helps me to love them even more; there’s no frame of reference – no bitching that this song
will never be as good as that song
. I just clicked play, and let ‘Fear and Trembling’ sweep over me like the six-minute modern rock awakening that it is. Although lyrical goldmines are rife throughout, I remember in particular when “Now I’m terrified of loving 'cause I’m terrified of pain
” blasted through the speakers, instantly transporting me to my twenty-four year old self – sitting alone and idly drunk in my apartment, cursing myself for letting my would-be girlfriend start a new life over a thousand miles away without putting up any semblance of a fight. I loved her beyond words, but it didn’t matter because that was who I was then: someone who felt it all, but was a downright fucking coward. Love was never worth the risk because I was terrified of returning to the eighteen year old college freshman who, in his own naivety, allowed himself to become shattered in a thousand different ways. I deemed myself beyond repair. In an instant, I became that person again despite being seven years and a lifetime of maturity removed from him. But that’s what Go Farther In Lightness
does – it digs deep to help you remember who you used to be, who you are, and who you could potentially be. Most importantly, it encourages you the whole way through.
The mid-album cornerstone, ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’ wrecked me too. I’m just going to interject now and let you know that even though I’m not going to even try to delve into all sixteen gems on here, they’re all worth your time. Every. Single. One. ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’ is one of the first you should turn your attention to, however, because it’s the most beautifully heartbreaking semi-power ballad culminating in rock fury that I’ve heard, possibly ever. The fact that the symphonic, string-laden ‘L’imaginaire’ introduces it only sets the elegant tone, but then Dave Leaupepe whisks us away in those dreary, hopelessly romantic vocals for a seven-and-a-half minute emotional rollercoaster. If ‘Fear and Trembling’ is the 2010 me, then this track felt like it had an awful lot to say about me right now. Yes, Go Farther In Lightness
was written for me – get over it, because it was written for you as well. In this song Leaupepe recalls a dream in which he is married, “ happy and impossibly so”
and laments that ”this dream is a life I don’t think I deserve”
. After years of essentially resigning myself to being alone, drunk, and trapped within my own introverted tendencies, I relate way too strongly to this line. I definitely don’t deserve my wife, and more than just in the way that no guy ever deserves such a strong, beautiful, and proud woman. I truly don’t know how I ended up so lucky, and that – I think – is what being in love is. Feeling like you trapped lighting in a bottle in such a way that could never happen again, because you were destined to be in the right place at the right time, with her. If you didn’t like that analogy, try this one: “Do not let this thing you got go to waste, do not let your heart be dismayed / It’s here by some random disclosure of grace, from some vascular, great thing.”
Yeah, the Gang of Youths spin on that same feeling is probably better but that’s why they make music and I write about it. Anyway, that feeling
is why I’m so easily able to let go of my past and all of the pain. If I had more of a backbone seven years ago, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I am today. And even though married life can at times feel like a settled routine of monotony, it’s still something I wouldn’t sacrifice in my wildest dreams because even when I feel like I’m in a rut, it’s a fully-embraced, deliriously happy brand of boredom.
The ways in which Go Farther In Lightness
parallels my life and helps me to have a more positive outlook on it is unmatched in almost all of modern music, which is a testament to the raw sincerity that this whole thing simply drips with. People can sing about sadness and strife, but so rarely do they mean it and even rarer does the listener form an instant, meaningful connection with it. It is, in itself, just that: a rarity. It’s the musical equivalent of that feeling I got when I fell in love for the first time, or when my entire life fell apart; or maybe both
somehow, at the same time. All I know is I feel everything when I listen to Gang of Youths, and just being able to feel
so freely because of music again is absolutely liberating. The album closer ‘Say Yes To Life’ echoes all my sentiments while hearing something as grand and emotionally sweeping as Go Farther In Lightness
– a microcosm of the record if you will even though there’s absolutely nothing micro
about it. It’s impossible to ignore the coincidental “thousand days of rain” line amidst the recent tragedy in Houston, as Go Farther In Lightness
proves itself – even in its waning minutes – to be bigger than all of us. It’s this striking statement about the intricacies of human emotion – from the depths of despair to the joyously shouted pinnacle of hope and optimism:
So let me love with a vengeance
I’ve heard what you’re saying, it’s okay not to be so alright
But don’t be alone
Say yes to sun! Say yes to pain!
Say yes to sticking with a city through a thousand days of rain!
Say yes to grace! Say no to spite!
Say yes to this! Say yes to you!
Say yes to me! Say yes to love!
Say yes to life!
Say, say yes to life!