At this point, there’s not a huge amount that Youth Fountain can do to win over any detractors they might have. Pop-punk isn’t in the greatest straits as it is at the minute, and another band who don’t seem to deviating much – if at all – from the groundwork that so many have laid out already countless times before. And yet, time has seen this duo build into a prospect with a good deal of success already, and even if they’re not a particularly unique prospect, the work ethic they’ve displayed up to now and the commitment to deeply personal songwriting is worth some commendation on its own, to the point where Letters To Our Former Selves is a debut that’s worth a look. After all, consolidating that work into a larger body of work is often favourable for any band, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be the same for Youth Fountain.
And largely, it is, though Letters To Our Former Selves mightn’t be the pop-punk game-changer that the genre could really do with about now. In terms of recreating the forceful, angst-ridden style that was so prevalent in the first half of the decade, Youth Fountain clearly know what they’re doing, and had this been released about five years ago, the overall reception would’ve been unequivocally kinder. Right now though, when this sound in particular is seen as a relic of a genre that, for the most part, has moved past it, it’s hard to see Letters To Our Former Selves as doing much else than treading water, and that’s a trait that remains consistent pretty much across the board.
Honestly, it’s not hard to find such clearly-defined origin points for almost every aspect of this album, even from just a brief comb through. Cody Muraro’s vocal timbre has the harsher, more acidic bite of Under Soil And Dirt-era Parker Cannon, while the likes of the title track and Deadlocked are equally as easy to trace back to The Story So Far in their feeding of emo sentiment and hardcore aggro through a decidedly pop-punk lens. It’s tough not to lump Youth Fountain in with the majority of bands piggybacking off the sound that The Story So Far brought to the table a few years ago, and while that’s not necessarily a problem, it operates on the same basis of cannibalising momentum that was just as much of a problem back them. Granted, the competition for Youth Fountain has eased back considerably since then, and at least with tracks like Moody or Ache falling into a more distinctively emo-driven framework, there’s a brief flash of identifiable personality, but for the most part, Letters To Our Former Selves feels unfortunately short on ideas that don’t feel pulled wholesale from a source that, especially at this point, has already been mined bare.
Thankfully the writing can pull off a bit more heavy lifting, and though nothing outright spectacular, the emphasis on mental anguish and loneliness paired with a vocal performance as purging as this does connect a fair amount. The raw honesty screamed through gritted teeth on Rose Coloured Glass and Deadlocked is an obvious baseline that still manages to hit with an excellent amount of force, but in the more downbeat, melancholy ruminations on emptiness like Moody and Worried, the transition to full-blown emo is what leads to some of this album’s most potent moments. There’s an honesty and relative plain-spokeness to Youth Fountain’s writing that has a lot of mileage to it, and while it’s hardly the most original theme to explore, the depth and candour with which they do it can’t be ignored.
Put it all together, and Letters To Our Former Selves clearly feels like an album that knows where it wants to go, but hasn’t committed all the way to it yet. As hard as it is to be truly original in pop-punk, and for as much as Youth Fountain work with what they’re given, there’s definitely more that could be done; right now they’re holding on to an archetypal pop-punk framework that isn’t doing anything to benefit them, and as soon as they can at least add their own spin or flair in greater frequency, this could be a band well worth getting behind. Right now, there are moments of real, tangible promise, but not enough to totally get onboard just yet.
For fans of: The Story So Far, ROAM, Man Overboard
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Letters To Our Former Selves’ by Youth Fountain is released on 8th March on Pure Noise Records.