Ever since their debut last year, the general prevailing mindset with Youth Killed It is that they’re completely inessential but a great band to have around. There’s no shortage of jaunty, radio-friendly indie-rock bands doling out hefty lashings of personal tales interwoven with social commentary, but with a quick-wittedness in tow and Jack Murphy’s clear hip-hop stylings in his vocals, Modern Bollotics was a fun, lightweight and heartfelt listen that made it incredibly easy to gravitate towards what Youth Killed It were doing. And given how much has happened since then, both in the public eye and in Murphy’s personal life, an album called What’s So Great, Britain? evidently stands ready to tackle those issues in front of it.
And it definitely does, perhaps in a way that’s even lighter than Modern Bollotics, and that does admittedly hold it back from being a bit better. That’s not to say this isn’t a likable album; the sharp riffs and generally quick-stepping pace are definitely pleasant, and with a largely inoffensive, radio-friendly vibe, the overall atmosphere becomes supremely inviting. But that can be a problem when there isn’t a very stable foundation to ground it in, and for as catchy as the likes of the title track and Great British Summer are, most of what’s here can’t really rise to same level. Of course, when Youth Killed It mix up their formula with the deft reggae touches on 0121 and the more sincere and personal pair of This Sounds Cliché and On My Own, they prove they’re more than a simple middle-of-the-road indie band, but it’s the reticence to show it off more that ultimately holds this album back from being any better.
Really, if the instrumentation was more in line with the lyrics, things would be very different, as Youth Killed It once again prove their lightness of touch at getting some real earthen detail into their writing and running with it. Even when the majority is simply Murphy answering back to the negativity that surrounds him, there’s definitely pathos in that that’s easy to grasp, whether it’s the shifting ideologies following Brexit on the title track, or simply the annoyances of having to deal with hateful Internet commenters on What You’re Thinking. The beauty of all of this, though, is in the relatability, and how Murphy is able to channel such simple, everyday details into compelling numbers; there’s reason behind being frustrated at not getting paid for creative work on No Money, No Monday or a housemate not pulling their weight on Peaceful House, and it’s really well executed.
It’s just a shame that there isn’t a similar amount behind the instrumentation, then What’s So Great, Britain? could be a genuinely great little indie album if it all clicked together. As it stands though, there’s still a lot to like here, but Youth Killed It really need to push themselves a bit further for that enjoyment to grab on a bit deeper and last longer; the main problem here is that, even now, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of longevity. Still, for another quick, entertaining listen, Youth Killed It are rapidly proving to be perfectly capable of delivering that every time.
For fans of: Jamie T, The LaFontaines, Arctic Monkeys
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘What’s So Great, Britain?’ by Youth Killed It is released on 5th October on Rude Records.