Youth Group starts off their “Skeleton Jar” with a very Radiohead/Postal Service-sounding track in “Shadowland”. The same sound predominates during the disc’s title track, which has a solid feel that seemes perfectly acceptable compared with much of the college-rock out current. The guitar, bouncy throughout really lifts up and invigorates the dreamy vocals of Toby. Looking back to the Merseybeat sound just a little bit during “Lillian Lies”, the tested sound of Youth Group during this track really can be chalked up as a victory for the band. The Spartan sound of the track belies a very coherent and full sound achieved by the guitar and bass on the track. “The Frankston Line” is really a back-sliding track for Youth Group; while the track does shine under the multiple-harmonies of the vocals of the band and the guitar work present on the song, the track does not contribute anything new to the patchwork quilt that was “Skeleton Jar” up to that point.
Youth Group really achieves a victory with their “Baby Body”, a track that drops all pretense and allows Youth Group to really just rock. The arrangements are simplistic but really keep individuals listening because of their universality. Thus, the warm sound of the track will point directly to an experience in every listener’s life that is nothing but positive, and beyond the solid music played by the band, the individual will be inexorably intertwined with the band due to this shared moment. “See-Saw” is the first slower-tempo track to be found on “Skeleton Jar”, and the band shows their mettle with intelligent use of tension and guitar riffs that transfer the longing present in the vocals to every listener. The guitars also do more than further the track; on “See-Saw they even go and provide a distinct atmosphere as they insinuate themselves behind any possible place.
This use of instrumentation to create a distinct atmosphere is continued during “Why Don’t The Buildings Cry”, and really is the main linkage between the two sections of the disc. What is perhaps the most interesting thing about Youth Group is the re-contextualization of the Phil Spector-used “Wall of Sound” style of music production to make their own brand of indie-rock some of the most lively and rambunctious, yet still outwardly somewhat sedate. Finishing off their disc with the Weakerthans-influenced “Piece of Wood”, Youth Group has provided a nuanced and emotive (and talented) look into a genre (indie-rock) that has been more often than not more of a fashion than an actual music genre.
Top Tracks: Piece of Wood, Shadowland
Youth Group – Skeleton Jar / Epitaph / 11 Tracks / www.epitaph.com /
Youth Group Skeleton Jar Review