Gang of Youths
Angel in Realtime


5.0
classic

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
February 24th, 2022 | 335 replies


Release Date: 02/25/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: y'know it's time that we grow old and do some shit

Gang of Youths have grown up. By no means is this meant to cast their earlier work as childish or immature; if The Positions is a little rough around the edges, the blunt sense of humour in Go Farther in Lightness a touch overdone in that recognisably Australian way, surely that's a significant part of their charm. But angel in realtime sees a band that's more weary and worldly, a charge led by Dave Le'aupepe's album-long narrative about uncovering the true history and tragedy of his recently deceased father's life. It takes listeners from Samoa in the 1940s to New Zealand in the '80s to present-day London, where Le'aupepe has settled down with his wife and found the kind of brilliant love he could only dream of on songs like "Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane". In tandem with this globe-trotting tale, Gang of Youths shed the shell of their former Springsteen-worshipping guitar rocker selves and adopt a vibrant new sound built around propulsive beats, lushly orchestrated strings, and freshly recorded choirs colliding with old samples of traditional Pacific Islander music. It's a daring move from a band most expected to keep getting bigger and grander until their music eclipsed the very concept of arena rock; it may also be the single best choice Gang of Youths have ever made as a band.

angel in realtime is no passing tourist grabbing bits of Polynesian music to make itself sound interesting. This is an album fully immersed in the culture from which Le'aupepe's father sprang, including usage of the Taonga Pūoro family of instruments from Maori history, backing vocals by the Auckland Gospel Choir, and samples of traditional Pacific Islander songs recorded decades ago by the British artist David Fanshawe in an attempt to preserve the artform. The reason for their inclusion in an album so deeply concerned with a man from their world is self-evident, and fully justified in the text. Le'aupepe writes about singing "hymnals from the islands" to his father as he died in the devastating opener "you in everything", and the samples throughout angel in realtime are similarly positioned, somewhere between comfort blanket for the singer and a Greek chorus over which he is free to deliver some of his finest work to date. The album at times resembles The Avalanches in indie mode meeting Crowded House-circa-Together Alone, where psychedelic experimentation and tribal percussion met furious, garage-y rock. But Gang of Youths' identity is far too unmistakable to be subsumed even in a left turn as sharp as this. Some things remain the same: the contrasting earnestly poetic and dark comic lyricism of Dave Le'aupepe ("a rough arsehole using big words", as he self-describes it); the cascading vocal lines tumbling over words like there's just too much to say and not enough time to say it; the man's incredible voice, albeit rawer and more dry in the mix than before, as if some of the things in this album were just too painful to record more than once.

"We held you in your bed, we washed you in your sheets / and sang you hymnals from the islands 'til you drifted off to sleep / then I kissed the hands that raised me for the last time, and stared out into the street".

I mean, shit, that's understandable. angel in realtime traces the secret history of Teleso "Tattersall" Le'aupepe, a man who loved his family dearly and also lied to them about his life, even up to the final day on his deathbed. The man his family thought had been born in New Zealand in 1948 was actually born in Samoa an entire decade earlier, left for New Zealand in search of better economic prospects, experienced traumatic racial oppression at the hands of the state, and before leaving again had two children whom he never mentioned to his new family in Australia. Digging out this hidden story is the album's purpose, rationale and even burden. There's pain and anguish as Le'aupepe wonders why Teleso kept so many secrets from the people he loved and reckons with this fundamental shift in his understanding of his father and himself, but also joy when he meets his two half-brothers for the first time and finds a new sense of community which was clearly needed after their father's passing. This multi-decade, culture-shifting adventure is admittedly as thrilling as it is absolutely heartbreaking, and the album chops and changes musical styles in order to do it justice, from sky-scraping indie pop to solemn piano ballads and everything in-between. Le'aupepe, living in London with his wife ("the angel of 8th ave.") experiences the ultimate loss ("you in everything", "in the wake of your leave") only to find a new family in New Zealand ("brothers"), and takes his wife to his ancestral homeland in Samoa in search of some kind of understanding about his father's life ("unison"). "tend the garden" and "the kingdom is within you" directly form a two-part story from Teleso's perspective, a musing by Dave on the traumatic things his father must have experienced to do the things he did, boldly soundtracked by jungle-y beats and a garage groove you might surf past on a chillwave station.

As an overall piece of songwriting, it will likely be the high watermark Gang of Youths are held to, which is not a bad shout for the third narratively and musically masterful album from them in a row. Even putting aside all this story, snapshots of music throughout angel in realtime instantly qualify for some of the best music they've ever made: the glitchy, art-pop ending of "unison", the absolutely breathtaking chorus on "the man himself", the slow eruption into bittersweet euphoria that comprises "spirit boy", which sounds like a Britpop classic colliding with the quiet, damaged beauty of Nick Cave's Push the Sky Away. One such moment will slip right under the skin for longtime fans, with "forbearance" acting as a semi-sequel to the band's first classic "Magnolia". It adds a heartbreaking new dimension to "Magnolia"'s depiction of Le'aupepe's suicide attempt through the eyes of his father, whom he regrets not saying goodbye to before leaving the house on that fateful June 4th. "It's me trying to make up for what I did as a 21-year-old idiot by attending to my dad while he was dying", Le'aupepe writes in the album notes, and "forbearance" brutally bears this out: "if the whole thing was fair / it would be me that was fighting for air […] but I'm hoping that the days in the hospice atoned for some of that".

It's one of those songs that instantly feels like a masterpiece without qualifying factor, Gang of Youths' latest and greatest opus, but the mix of raw regret and poignant music that comprises it is so heady that it's genuinely difficult to listen to. A canny bit of sequencing sees it followed by the life-affirming, chest-thumping single "the man himself", a declaration of committing to life and becoming the best person we can be for our future children, like a more clear-eyed spiritual continuation of the harrowing deep cut "A Sudden Light". "the man himself" will immediately brighten anybody's day despite the shadow of loss hanging over it, and is certainly angel in realtime's best meeting point between the timeless-feeling samples of Pacific Islander hymns and some very modern breakbeat-esque percussion. Oh, don't get the wrong idea about this album: the weighty narrative and complex production have not drowned out Gang of Youths' ability to just fucking bang, whether that's the destined-for-festivals "in the wake of your leave" or the only song that resembles their original incarnation, "the angel of 8th ave". They end the album displaying the sheer boldness of their songwriting chops, as the lovelorn piano hymn "hand of god" transitions flawlessly into the seven-minute epic "goal of the century", which moves through a half dozen movements of distinct musical timbre before winding back down on the same vocal melody as its predecessor. The fact that this sheer flex of a closing duo - named after two of the most famous goals in soccer history, because after all these are some Australian lads at the heart - feels like a gratis extra to the album that precedes it is proof how stuffed angel in realtime is with quality.

Gang of Youths' newfound musical evolution, sincerity and lyrical density are sure to set them up for backlash following a bold-font maximalist triumph like Go Farther in Lightness. The fact that they just ignored that, and made the music they had to make anyway, growing laterally towards something more complex and richly textured rather than continually going bigger, is one of the many things that makes me want to ignore all reason and christen angel in realtime as an out-and-out classic. As a music listener, as an Australian proud for once that my country could produce a band this good, as a person in my 20s still wondering when all the shit I've seen and done will finally shape me into a person I could be proud of, angel in realtime is fucking perfect. This album is so pure, so deeply felt that cynicism and pre-prepared anti-hype will just slide off it like a light breeze; that even low points like the clunky, ridiculous "returner" - the band's worst song, as if that means a lot for a band who've never made a bad one – barely make a dent. It's the finest work by a band finally mature enough to trust in sound and texture and feeling, and in good time it will outrun any lingering reputation and be crowned as a masterpiece. Until then, I'll hear angel in realtime in everything, and be grateful to do so.



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user ratings (148)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


46554 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/nov/18/we-want-to-get-treated-like-normies-gang-of-youths-on-fame-faith-and-family



inb4 big review with hyperbolic rating - yes, absolutely. not gonna be around here for a while so it seemed fitting to go out as on my bullshit as when I first came in. peace out to the good ones

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


48906 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

big review: swallowing words while giving head



(i like it all that way etc)

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


3921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So it begins...



Hype!

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2022


11437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

oh shit! will read that monster when jamming the record

Slex
February 24th 2022


14042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nervous to listen to this because it's gonna be heavy but fuck I cannot wait

Digging: Conjurer (UK) - Pathos

kalkwiese
February 24th 2022


8698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I am so hyped ngl

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


48906 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This album is so pure, so deeply felt that cynicism and pre-prepared anti-hype will just wash off it like a light breeze



and the new paramore ain't even out yet

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2022


3468 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the big 5... as if I wasn't already hyped for the album

will give this a read tomorrow after I listen to the record!

alamo
February 24th 2022


5002 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sooooooooooooooooooooooooo excited

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2022


16570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my body is ready

Digging: Roseville - something about a fig tree

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


4512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fucking beautiful read, so excited to hear this in full

Slex
February 24th 2022


14042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only problem I have with this review is that Returner is a fantastic song Rowbro

alexslavco
February 24th 2022


119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

HYPE

Sowing
Moderator
February 24th 2022


41306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You had me at "lushly orchestrated strings, and freshly recorded choirs". In all seriousness though, I loved their guitar-driven Springsteen-ish charm, so I hope that there's still some of that present. Either way, your review has me very excited to listen to this.

Digging: Shinedown - Planet Zero

Slex
February 24th 2022


14042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That fucking piano lick that punctuates the huge ending of Spirit Boy is euphoria, and Brothers is probably Dave's best song yet lyrically. This is something else, going to take a few listens to fully digest

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2022


11437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

had a blast reading this

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2022


2071 Comments


oh damn, great review. never listened to this sicc crew, and have made an executive decision to start right here

Scoot
February 25th 2022


21250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

excited for this, i was prepared for a letdown

SlothcoreSam
February 25th 2022


4155 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

2nd listen and it's a 4.2. Watch this bad boy grow throughout the year.

Digging: The Bobby Lees - Hollywood Junkyard EP

heyadam
February 25th 2022


3913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

a 5?! stoked for this. can’t see it being better then go further for me, but stooooked



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