The road for Youth Man hasn’t exactly taken them the quickest or straightest route to get where they are now. Losing bassist Miles Cocker has proven to be the most recent blow, but that follows what’s been a sonic shift with every release so far, making the jump from Black Flag-inspired hardcore punk on their debut EP Bad Weather to scrappy garage-punk on its follow-up Wax.
As for Five Songs, this one’s proven to be completely different yet again, now experimenting with a myriad of sounds spanning from post-punk to hardcore in what is Youth Man’s messiest but most intriguing release to date. Clearly any notions of falling into a certain box are off the table now, with the duo’s characteric looseness and Kaila Whyte’s wiry, unhinged yelps making for a surprisingly solid constant in the readily shifting styles, making something like Valley Girl’s slip into chaotic, thrashing hardcore from slightly woozy power-pop seem totally natural.
It’s not cohesive by any means, and though that does hinder the EP’s overall capabilities somewhat, that sort of feels like the point. Even the title Five Songs indicates this to be the product of doing whatever they want on a blank canvas, and when a lot of it does stick the landing, that’s hard to complain about. Constantly easily stands above everything else as a frenetic punk rager that gets in and out in under two minutes, but then there’s Mainland and Statuesque which do some decent tricks with a darker post-punk air, or I Don’t Know’s noticeably grander presentation, and it dawns just how far out of their previous comfort zone Youth Man are going here. It mightn’t all come together as excellently as it could, but the ambition goes a long way to rectifying that.
What’s more, Five Songs is perhaps the first release to take Youth Man away from the area of perenially underground punk mainstays and into a band genuinely worth putting some stock into. There’s variety and the style to pursue that with ease, not to mention the unmistakably punk sensibilities that have taken Youth Man so far already. So while Five Songs is definitely transitional, what it’s transitioning into is the most exciting phase of this band’s career to date.
For fans of: Petrol Girls, LICE, Fizzy Blood
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Five Songs’ by Youth Man is released on 29th July on Alcopop! Records.