Young Jesus
The Fool


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
May 26th, 2024 | 20 replies


Release Date: 05/24/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: All my dreams end violently

It’s often been claimed that the opposite of love isn’t hate, as commonly assumed, but rather indifference. After all, love and hate are simply sides of the same coin, passionate emotions channeled into different directions. Young Jesus’ latest album, The Fool, is essentially a musical counterpart to that concept. It’s a record which I assess as flirting with brilliance, but the knife’s edge on which it rests also borders upon awfulness rather than mediocrity.

The Young Jesus catalog up to this point has covered a lot of ground. Early efforts, like 2012’s debut Home, operated in the realm of emo/folk while being heavily influenced by The National, but by 2020’s Welcome to Conceptual Beach, the music had morphed into a strange form of artsy prog/jazz. And that was all before 2022’s Shepherd Head, at which point Young Jesus became simply a solo project for vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter and his new interest in trippy electronic textures. Against that complicated backdrop, The Fool sees the Young Jesus brand reinvented once more.

In short, this latest batch of songs is the most singer-songwriter-y collection yet in the discography - heavy on piano balladry, even heavier on Rossiter’s voice and lyrics. Themes of guilt and redemption, and what it means to live in a good life in a broken world, predominate, and there’s a palpable darkness throughout. Everything is quite earnest, even if occasionally punctuated with bursts of humor. A listener’s level of enjoyment of the album will almost exclusively be determined by their tolerance of Rossiter himself - both the half-mad prophet persona he adopts and his vocal stylings. On that latter point, most of the time Rossiter’s gruff voice provides a poor man’s hipster Springsteen vibe, but on rare occasions he strains his (golden?) pipes beyond their capacity, to almost unbearable results. Lyrically, too, there’s a lot of threading the needle between the profound and the hamfisted (think “true love is a little bit like hell” from “Two Brothers” or “yeah the money was nice, it bought me a shrink” from “Rich”). All that is to say that finding the album to be deeply emotionally touching, or a total sonic atrocity, are both reactions I find quite viable.

Many of The Fool’s finest moments come when the musical backdrops add depth and flavor to Rossiter’s stories - a la the combustible bar band rock of “Brenda & Diane”, the snarling slowcore/slacker rock guitar which periodically roils “Rabbit”, or the poppy electronic touches of “Am I the Only One”. More sparse songs often suffer in comparison - “The Weasel” and “Dancer” have plenty of potentially crushing lyrical content, but struggle to stand out due to their more one-dimensional nature. That said, this is an album which manages to cover a fair amount of sounds and moods - “Moonlight” manages to provide an uneasy, queasy sense of atmosphere while also incorporating a classic-sounding chorus, while “Sunrise” transforms itself from a beautiful beginning before becoming more and more unhinged, culminating in Rossiter howling “think I’ll take the bus down to New Orleans, yeah I think I’ll buy some drugs”.

The grander pretensions which fuel The Fool - religion, philosophy, what makes a “good life” - might sometimes feel either overwrought or underbaked, but it’s the bleeding heart behind them, the unvarnished sense of humanity, which ultimately makes me assess this album as a flawed success rather than flaming mess - indeed, I’d say the concepts are ultimately “wrought” and “baked” just right. There are plenty of moments here which are simply spectacular, as Rossiter delivers a particular line in just the right way at just the right time - the final words of the aforementioned “Brenda & Diane” are a fine example - “I just kept drivin’ on” over gentle piano, the whole moment full of pathos. But it’s the closer “God’s Plan” which spells out the album’s vision most clearly, its slow and lumbering arrangement allowing Rossiter’s musings to shine. The attempts at wit are great (“I made a joke about communion, how it must’ve been something he ate” gets a wry grin out of me every time), but the overall tone is deadly serious, and by the time of the album’s last lines are delivered, I never feel like I’m left unscathed. The Fool is a record filled with a sense of intensity, an almost unnerving feeling that its creator had a lot to say that simply had to get out. Whether it’s any good is for you to decide, but love it or hate it, I think you’ll feel something.



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user ratings (16)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2024


6030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rather fascinating album which will be alternately endearing or appalling depending on the listener - I like it personally. Hopefully I did it justice.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
May 26th 2024


6758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

It's cool that they keep trying new things.... but I do wish we had another 'Conceptual Beach'

WatchItExplode
May 27th 2024


10475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'd say you summed this up perfectly Sunny. Flirting with brilliance...not a lot of fun though. Here's hoping this was a nice cathartic personal album and we don't have to traipse through his personal wreckage again next album.

Cormano
May 27th 2024


4201 Comments


was hoping someone would review this, glad it turned out to be you

can't wait to listen to this, never have i walked away unimpressed by this band's material

DoofDoof
May 28th 2024


15469 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is my 'concentrated listen new album of the week' and I'm really enjoying it, quite a mixed bag of styles and vocal performances but it's all starting to tie together. Stuff like 'Weasel' doesn't look like it's popular going by the RYM ratings but I even dig that strange folk stuff.



The more Anohni style songs like 'Dancer' are pretty phenomenal imo, might bump this to a 4 soon.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 28th 2024


6030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks folks!



@Doof, seems like we have different favorite tracks here, but yeah, this seemed to me like a Doof 4 at least.

theBoneyKing
May 28th 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very much enjoyed this on first listen, yet another interesting change in style. I guess they've lost some of their earlier fans but as someone who came in on Conceptual Beach I quite appreciate this act's devotion to following their muse wherever it takes them.

WatchItExplode
May 28th 2024


10475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Rich, Am I the Only One, and Sunrise are my highlight. The album is fantastic as a complete listen though.

theBoneyKing
May 28th 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

“Rabbit” is something special.

denboy
May 29th 2024


1219 Comments


Can't believe I still run into old albums rated >4 on this site after all these years, Home is great, currently working my way through the discography

denboy
May 29th 2024


1219 Comments


Grow / Decompose is less immediately captivating but I'm still sold on it after one listen

Cormano
May 29th 2024


4201 Comments


I'd say Grow / Decompose might be their only "dud"

Home is their best and I think s/t is the best from the trilogy

theBoneyKing
May 29th 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You think every day’s the same

But it’s new, and it’s brief, and it takes your breath away

Do you feel like all you do is wait

For someone else to make the damn change?


someone
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2024


6758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

cant remember if this was always Young Jesus style, but i find the lyrics on this one to be too blunt and near comically lacking any genuine, well, lyricality



dude speaks in Pinterest inspirational quotes

theBoneyKing
May 30th 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I can understand that take I guess but idk, this just works for me. I relate to a lot of the sentiments.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2024


6758 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Sure, I do too. But even relatable stuff can be written in an unpalatable way

theBoneyKing
May 31st 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The top two “Fans also like” artists for this band on Spotify are Empty Country and Wild Pink, which makes so much sense

DoofDoof
May 31st 2024


15469 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I got the feeling this was very personal anecdotal, the ‘in your face’ vocal performances match the same approach to the lyrics?



It’s a bit ‘letting it all hang out’ and sometimes ugly.

Cormano
May 31st 2024


4201 Comments


@boney

I haven't heard either, should I

theBoneyKing
June 1st 2024


24563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If you like literate/very lyrical indie with aspects of heartland rock, emo, and art rock, then absolutely (Empty Country especially)



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