New Gang of Youths Album Takes Sad Songs and Makes Them Better
Our critics this week listen to the emotional brutality of Gang of Youths’ new album, real time angel, Johnny Marr, formerly of the Smiths Fever Dreams Parts 1-4 and the new album by British band caroline CAROLINA.
gang of young people, ANGEL IN REAL TIME. (Mosy/Sony), ★★★★½
Often the simplest things contain the greatest truth. With the third album of Gang of Youths, this moment arrives Brothers, a song so stripped down and intimate you can hear the creaking of piano stools. Dave Le’aupepe sings a simple melody that sinks into your heart, simply and poetically telling the story of his siblings and their late father, a man who lied about his age, his history and even his race.
It’s a big call to make a case on the death of a family member, mainly because the gold standard is so high, including Eels’ electro-shock blues, Flaming Lips The sweet newsletter and Sufjan Stevens Carrie and Lowell. Each of them did what Paul McCartney adopted in Hey Jude, take a sad song and make it better. They also delved into the complex nature of loss, sadness and grief, while creating moments of beauty and hope. Well, add real time angel to this list because it’s a triumph.
Le’aupepe was never one to hold back – the band’s debut album Posts spoke of the breakdown of his marriage as his wife suffered from cancer – and once again he is swinging for the fences, both in sound greatness (Auckland Gospel Choir; the Cook Islands Drummers; a celtic tinted stormer called turner) and the torrents of words pouring out of his mouth, channeling big-screen artists like Springsteen and The War On Drugs. Everything would be so bluster if there was nothing at his heart, but the emotional core of the record is so strong because we hear Le’aupepe struggling with big conflicting emotions and trying to express them.
At maintain the garden, a cruise track with a slinky sax line, he sings in character as his father, including the self-referential line: “But my youngest child, he can’t shut his mouth, I guess it won’t be long until ‘until the truth is outside.” And on Abstention he reflects on the fallout from his 2015 song Magnolia, which details his suicide attempt and offers a mea culpa to his father.
By the time the final two epic songs draw parallels to the flawed greatness of Diego Maradona, even football phobics will be hitting the air. The entire record is infused with the love of a son – a love so fierce it virtually rushes through the speakers and cries on your shoulder. BARRY DIVOLA