“No rest for the wicked,” they say, and in this case truer words could not have been spoken as Sydney’s musical delinquents Gang Of Youths power on, refusing to give us a second to breathe, calm down and change our underwear.
Over the past few months, the rockers have given us an album and tour announcement, several singles off the new record and a secret acoustic show in Sydney, once again proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Australian music scene and on the international stage.
The band have come through with their highly-anticipated second album Go Farther In Lightness, a collection of songs that frontman David Le’aupepe describes as “a healing record” following their debut LP The Positions and follow-up EP Let Me Be Clear – records which explore cancer, suicide and reflections on Le’aupepe’s own (self-described) cantankerous, perfectionist, polarising self.
The passionate intensity that ignites the band remains present in their latest offering – you can hear the profoundly raw emotion GOY thrives on.
In saying that, if you’re looking for that signature Gang Of Youths high-energy, rock’n’roll sound to back up their driving lyricism, you may be underwhelmed. Then again, as Le’aupepe joked with the audience at their secret gig a few weeks back, he’s pretty bored of crowds hollering for them to “Play fuckin’ Magnolia“. (Thanks for playing Magnolia for us anyway, legend).
The record opens with two absolute winners. Fear & Trembling is the perfect introduction to the band’s signature sound with its slow build into an expedition of artistry, showcasing GOY’s ability to deliver the perfect combination of rugged vigour and solemn melodies. Following this is crowd favourite, What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out, a tenacious, uplifting rock’n’roll gem that both charms the ears and dispirits the heart.
Le’aupepe’s vocals evoke empathy within the listener as he questions what comes next in his personal and creative endeavours.
Taking an unexpected turn after these tracks, I couldn’t help but feel like the middle of the album comes across as slightly gloomy and melancholy. Many songs hold heavy string and piano components, where listeners may be expecting a tasty guitar riff or a punchy bassline.
The direction of the album can be heard, but the essence we search for in a GOY album is missing among the ballads. Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane and Achilles Come Down drawl on for longer than required – around the seven and a half minute mark – the string sections sounding borderline melodramatic.
Standout tracks (aside from the first two mentions) come towards the end of the record.
The Heart Is A Muscle is enigmatic and enduring, essentially displaying a strong Cure-like influence, heard in the chorus delivery and instrumental sections as freshly added horns blaze catchy counter melodies. Another highlight is single Let Me Down Easy, a clean-cut song hosting a real LCD Soundsystem vibe. Simple guitar work and smooth, casual vocals give the song a subtle candid tone, perfect for a chilled weeknight jam.
Achieving balance on an album is a difficult task, especially for a band who is so versatile, and who have so many stories to tell. For me, the mark was missed.
When ten of 16 tracks are ballads or instrumentals, the question of expressive vs excessive is raised. I mean, when you pick up a Led Zeppelin or a Beatles album, you want to hear something that sounds like Led Zep or The Beatles. You’re in a particular frame of mind or mood for a certain style, determining what you’re reaching for.
I picked this one up wanting GOY’s energetic rock’n’roll and was left wanting.
This is a healing record, and as Le’aupepe ruefully remarks in the presser: “It’s my answer to the question: ‘What do I say now, after writing the hour-long record about cancer?'”
This record may have been more for him than it was for us.
Gang of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness
Released: 18 August, 2017 via Mosy Recordings/Verge/Sony Music