ARITST: YOUTH MAN
TITLE: FIVE SONGS
LABEL: ALCOPOP RECORDS
For those yet to uncover the joys of Youth Man, they’re a two-piece noisy punk outfit from Birmingham who’ve been around in some form or other since 2012. They released three EPs with previous label Venn Records (owned by fellow punks, Gallows), but recently had a line up AND label change, going from a three piece to two, and signing with Alcopop! Records. The change has rejuvenated the duo, and they’ve found a renewed sense of purpose and determination, showcased on brilliant brand new EP, Five Songs.
With some unusual structures and dissonant chords that sound like they shouldn’t work but somehow do, the sound is experimental and fresh. Although still very much a ‘punk’ band, the duo don’t feel the need to stagnate and be restricted by any expectations of the genre, and ‘Five Songs’ sees them branching out into unchartered territory. It makes for an exhilarating listen, showcasing a band who are now focused and sharp, working on “distilling” their sound. The duo declared they were “bored of with just making bangy shouty music all the time” and describing these new five tracks as “a sonic adventure”, we’re inclined to agree.
There’s some R&B influences here and there, with a gospel choir-esque ending to ‘I Don’t Know’, and some unusual and quirky equipment utilised by producer and old friend Mark Gittins, who recorded the EP at Megatone Studios in Digbeth, Birmingham. These include various pieces of African percussion, and a shaker made out of a mic windscreen filled with thumbtacks (as heard on ‘Valley Girl’).
The lyrics are pretty dark at times, as is the manner in which vocalist and guitarist Kyila Whyte delivers them, such as on opener ‘Mainland’, matter of fact in its dreary acceptance of depression and death. There’s something eerie and atmospheric about the discord and minor inflections, juxtaposed with her sometimes chatty throaway style. “Each one of the songs on this record is either about being drunk, ill, sad or pissed off, because 2017 sucked,” said drummer Marcus Perks of the themes explored on the EP.
Of course, there’s buckets of the usual punk attitude too, with layers of punchy guitars, raw, grinding bass and the occasional shout scream from Kyila, the passion and pain clear in her voice as she wails “I don’t know how to love” on ‘I Don’t Know’. ‘Valley Girl’ is probably the most stereotypical “punk” but even that has its weird homemade shaker to ensure nothing on this EP is quite what it seems.
It’s certainly pretty out there for a punk band, but Youth Man are clearly becoming more than that now, constantly evolving, and with obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm for their music shining through.
WORDS: BEC SIMPSON