Youth­ful dreams save a pre­dictable night

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music - Iain Shed­den

HE’S shame­lessly ro­man­tic, Toby Martin. Youth Group’s front­man could give Mor­ris­sey a run for his money on that score with lines such as ‘‘ I can’t go on with­out a song to sing and some­thing to love’’, couched here in the ser­e­nad­ing brass and waltzy shuf­fle of Ba­bies in Your Dreams. Martin may be em­ploy­ing his Man­cu­nian coun­ter­part’s fruity irony, but prob­a­bly not. While there are sparks of the Smiths’ mu­si­cal and lyri­cal dex­ter­ity in the grooves of Youth Group’s fourth album, no­tably on the flighty rocker All This Will Pass (‘‘ you’re a ket­tle boil­ing with no one there to get it’’), else­where the lines and the melodies are more pre­dictable. This is par­tic­u­larly acute on Two Sides, a flimsy sub- Joy Di­vi­sion con­struc­tion with a cho­rus that be­comes re­dun­dant af­ter a few lis­tens ( the cheesy synth wash lingers longer). Martin’s vo­cal prow­ess comes not from power but from nu­ance; wring­ing emo­tion, of­ten in falsetto, from his ro­man­tic con­struc­tions. He does this ad­mirably on Friedrich­strasse , a shim­mer­ing saga of rein­ven­tion in which his imag­i­na­tive word play is matched by a bit­ter­sweet vo­cal, with the band car­ry­ing the song from off- kil­ter bal­lad to full- blown swag­ger in the space of 3.47 min­utes. Martin soars also on A Sign, bounc­ing off Cameron Emer­son- El­liott’s gui­tar mo­tif. The in­sis­tent gui­tar jan­gle and tight- knit rhyth­mic push of A Sign is an­other pos­i­tive, as is What is a Life? , the clos­ing an­them. Best of all, how­ever, is In My Dreams, five min­utes of epic hook and the kind of dy­namic — the jump from light to shade, from bom­bast to del­i­cacy — that has be­come a Youth Group trade­mark, not least on the band’s chart- top­ping cover of Al­phav­ille’s For­ever Young. The band may want to try a few more an­gles next time rather than re­ly­ing so heav­ily on that one.

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