Youthful dreams save a predictable night
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.