With indie music, the parameters for criticism are slightly different than with many other genres. Like trap or, to a lesser extent, hardcore, it’s a difficult to say that an indie band really fail at what they do if they capture a certain vibe, particularly that of bright, perma-youthful life that’s about as broad as it gets, but ultimately can work if it hits that mood. The Glorious Sons sound as though they’re all too familiar with that concept, a Canadian indie band who couldn’t sound more like a Canadian indie band if they tried, given their penchant for a sound that’s a bit rougher and more rugged, but wouldn’t even dream of going so hard that there wouldn’t be at least a reasonable chance of a mainstream crossover.
With that in mind, new album Young Beauties And Fools is exactly as you’d expect, an album that’s perfectly listenable and, for the most part, likable, but would be an absolute nightmare to dissect in depth, simply because there’s so little there. And on the surface, that kind of feels like the point. This is an album based on such a well-established formula that it’s difficult to criticise in any increased capacity, simple because for what it’s trying to do, it does it well overall, even if it lacks imagination at points that could’ve taken it further.
And that’s really the biggest fault here, in that so much of this album reads out like a collection of very rigidly-defined millennial archetypes that have been ingrained into the deepest reaches of pop culture’s collective psyche. There’s the capricious, young heartbreaker on Josie, the couple for whom the best pastime is sitting around and getting high on Come Down, and just an unsubtle amalgam of “young, wild and free” stereotypes on Godless, Graceless And Young. Any real details in the writing are scant – Sawed Off Shotgun probab fares the best in this regard, with frontman Brett Emmons censuring his need for medication and how he just wants to feel like himself for a change – and basing an album so heavily on such a deliberately light style of writing means it all blurs together too much to have any profound effect.
It’s just fortunate that, instrumentally, The Glorious Sons have a bit more to work with. Well, it isn’t that much really, relying on some burlier indie-rock melodies accentuated with touches of indie-folk and piano-rock, but in terms of a thicker, more rustic sound that’s certainly more palatable than the vast majority of ossified mainstream indie. The likes of My Poor Heart and My Blood pack in some more upbeat sensibilities that offer a nice change of pace from the spacious swell of the Lumineers-esque Hide My Love or the scratchy, blues-inspired closer Thank You For Saying Goodbye, and a bit more heft in texture in the production works well almost across the board (save for the uncomfortably intrusive bass on Everything Is Alright) and doesn’t clash with some of the cleaner, synthetic elements, like the Killers-style synths that wash over Come Down. It’s not reinventing the wheel or anything, but in terms of accentuating The Glorious Sons’ biggest strengths – particularly Emmons’ vocals which, pushed to his real limits, can carry some absolutely monstrous power in them – Young Beauties And Fools, from a technical standpoint at the very least, does a lot right.
And above all, that’s what The Glorious Sons will be judged the most heavily on – their ability to adapt to their broader approach to songwriting and how that ultimately plays out. The final verdict for that seems to be that they’re certainly a solid, very capable band, and that Young Beauties And Fools is an easy album, both to like and listen to, but you’d struggle to come up with any more beyond that. This is unlikely to top anyone’s year end list, purely because this is the sort of sound that’s been relied on countless times to fill space in the indie landscape, and this sort of generalised form of that is usually the first point of call. The Glorious Sons certainly have more potential than that though, given the knack for towering melody that’s on show here, and with a bit of refinement they’ll easily be able to escape the doldrums and forge their own path. As of now, this is good stuff that’s definitely worth a listen, but probably won’t find itself being revisited all that often.
For fans of: The Lumineers, Kings Of Leon, Arkells
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Young Beauties And Fools’ by The Glorious Sons is out now on Earache Records.