Vinyl Vlog 460

Vinyl Vlog 460

Wednesday, 04 November 2020
”Anywhere I Go, I’m Taking You With Me” from Young Culture’s self-titled album.

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Young Culture’s self-titled album. It might have just been a matter of taking a while to finally start missing it, or maybe I just needed enough time for the memory of the “Disney-fication” of the last wave of bands to fade, but listening to Young Culture’s self-titled album has caused me to remember that I really did like and had missed pop-punk. To reiterate, that’s pop-punk – not melodic hardcore (which I also like, but that’s not the point); pop-punk – the “songs about girls, three chords and a broken heart, bad attitude crowned with a brightly colored dye job” music.

I missed it and, as luck would have it, Albany NY’s Young Culture timed the release of their self-titled album so perfectly that it looks like they were just waiting for me.

As soon as stylus touches down on the album’s A-side and “Bloodthin” opens the running, those who remember the early-millennial interest in pop-punk and emo will flash back as singer Alex Magnan and guitarist Gabe Pietrafesa gingerly get the ball rolling with words of recollection from days gone by, and a guitar figure which paints a watercolor image to match. It’s a solid start, and those who know pop-punk dynamics work will be able to feel their excitement begin to mount – and when the bass and drums appear in the mix the tension builds exponentially – but does not explode at any time. What “Bloodthin” does do is give listeners a solid and salacious hint at what might be to come though.

The pay-off for the preview provided by “Bloodthin” manifests immediately as “Compass” picks up and follows the same pop-punk thread, and will get listeners hooked for the long haul. There, Young Culture proves they have songwriting chops well beyond their years and experience (after the cutesy kiss-off, “Like a compass you told me where to go,” lines like “But you were moving quicker than I could/ Yeah, you were proving you were up to no good/ From my peripheral, it looked alright/ But right behind my back you were telling me lies” simultaneously exemplify pop-punk and emo forms in addition to being critically impressive because they arrive fully developed from this young band), and present them in a manner from which it is impossible to turn away. The story only gets richer from there as Magnan illustrates that his writing talent is positively watertight and, by the end of the song (when he’s still recounting everything in the relationship which inspired the song), he knows he has already won the minds and hearts of every soul listening. It does need to be conceded that nothing about “Compass” hasn’t been done before by other bands, but that doesn’t matter; Young Culture just does it perfectly here, and that is what matters.

With “Compass” having set the pattern, listeners will find they feel perfectly fulfilled as the A-side of Young Culture progresses. “Everywhere I Go, I’m Taking You With Me” sees Magnan wrestle with his domestic responsibilities (trying to balance work and relationship) while “Holiday In Vegas” has the kind of fin in Sin City that only young first timers can really imagine, which reminds those who have become jaded with age that some people haven’t made big life and money mistakes yet and the “great unknown” gamble can still be exciting. That, in a strange way, can be heartwarming – and those hearts that have been touched by “Holiday In Vegas” will still be feeling pretty good when “I’ll Be There” gets a whole lot poppier and washes its way through with sweet hearts and gentle sentiments in abundance (come on – how does one qualify a lyric sheet which actually includes the line, “I’ll give you everything you need, I just only want to be with you”?)

As soft a note as “I’ll Be There” ends the A-side of Young Culture on, “Better Off As Friends” sees the band spontaneously firming right back up, ready to be counted as the B-side opens. There, with epic pop-punk guitar tones (sort of like where Blink 182 was before they called it a day, the first time)and excellent drum sounds, Young Culture just nails the spirit of pop punk at its absolute best, made all the better in this case because the performance doesn’t imply any canny professionalism. Here, all three bandmembers pour their hearts into their performance – they don’t hold back at all – and win hearts in so doing. The sweetness of the song is instantly accessible, even as Magnan walks away from the girl with whom he’s breaking up, completely upright. That sweetness endures through the breathless delivery of “Hailey Beverly 2016”(which, in any time other than during a pandemic, would be the breakout hit from any teen movie soundtrack) before angling toward some Top 40 production values for a minute for “Fantasy” before returning with some pop-punk/emo ambrosia for “American Idle” and then closing the album with the acoustic guitar-powered, “I love you, I’m leaving” power-pop ballad “Laylo.” In that end, Young Culture hits all the bases required to register the song as a perfect, romantic pop hit: there are sweet and heartfelt sentiments, mid-tempo acoustic guitar, beautiful and lush vocal melody… it is, very simply, a big potential hit and that it closes both the side and the album will simultaneously leave listeners feeling warm inside and ready to run front-to-back with the album again.

The fact that listeners of the right mind will be won and ready to take the ride again as soon as their turntable’s stylus lifts speaks volumes to the quality of what Young Culture has created with this album. The band has, very simply, brought fresh new life to this sound which hasn’t been a significant going concern for years, and presented it in a way which makes it really, really easy to love. Those who think I might be overstating the point simply have not heard this album yet; when they do hear it, they’ll know exactly what I mean though. [Bill Adams]


Young Culture is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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