Younghusband – Dromes (Sonic Cathedral)
LP / CD
Released 16th September
Psychedelic but never heavy, pretty but not in the least bit twee, Younghusband put the Pop back into Dreampop to great effect.
There’s something about this time of year, isn’t there, where by everyone seems to get a bit nostalgic. Blame the golden leaves and those long late afternoon shadows; you try and shake yourself back into the present day and then suddenly you find yourself thinking about Ultra Vivid Scene for the first time in years. In fairness the seasons can not be entirely held responsible for that; this impressive debut album being somewhat culpable. The latest fruit from the ever rich harvest that is Sonic Cathedral, Younghusband (“it was the surname of a character in a book I was reading years ago” explains singer Euan Hinshelwood “I just remember liking the way it looked like a 90s band name, two words together without a space”) carry more than a few echoes of simpler times, when indie guitar pop wasn’t trying too hard to be achingly cool or desperately complicated or laddishly populist. Before Britpop, before blogs, back when vinyl wasn’t a statement of anything other than the fact that you had a record out.
The sleeve – another wonderful dimension-warping piece from the artist responsible for the label’s ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ artwork earlier this year – tells part of the story, but only part. “Psych”, along with “krautrock”, has become almost ubiquitous of late as woozy effects and motorik rhythms creep out of the underground and into even the most hitherto effects-shy of guitar bands. And while there are plenty of references here to both – as you’d expect from a label that was celebrating such back when mainstream “indie” was still trying to decide between nu-rave and lad-rock – Younghusband resist any temptations to submerge themselves. Delicate acoustic guitar and crystalline vocals are the first sounds we hear on ‘Running Water’ and when the synths and drones slide into view they do so with a perfectly pitched subtlety. Studio duties are in the hands of Deerhunter producer Nicolas Vernhes and he’s helped the band play to their strengths – specifically sparkling, beguiling melodies. Remember when Ride sprung ‘Twisterella’ and everyone went “bloody hell, you can hear all the words and everything but they still sound brilliant”? Kind of like that.
From thereon in comes an abundance of great tunes. ‘Comets Crossed’ is proper Paisley Underground jangle with rich vintage organ sounds; ‘Left Of The Rocks’ is the one that screams Ultra Vivid Scene while the florid synths and impassioned if rather downbeat vocal melody of the standout ‘Silver Sisters’ (and the title, too, if we’re being honest) is surely some long-lost gem from the vaults of Flying Nun Records. The more you listen to Younghusband the more wonderful bits of late-eighties-early-nineties pop come flooding back. A couple of untitled instrumental interludes bring a more experimental side to the fore, and even when they plunge into the full-on hypnotic spiralling psych-out of the title track – an album-ender that genuinely warrants use of the word “climax” – they still remember to stick a strong melody in there.
Nice tunes come in for a lot of stick, not least from miserable fuckers like me who’d generally listen to malfunctioning electrical appliances over strummy guitars most days of the week, but that’s only because most purveyors of “nice tunes” are so bloodlessly boring these days. Psychedelic but never heavy; dreamy but never half-asleep; pretty but not in the least bit twee; pastel-hued but never washed out, Younghusband and Veenhes have pulled off an absolute blinder here and made the echoes of 1988 sound truly refreshing in 2013.
Younghusband are on tour in September, visiting:
- The Castle, Manchester (17th);
- Adelphi, Hull (18th);
- Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, Glasgow (19th);
- Cockpit, Leeds (20th);
- Cookie Jar, Leicester (21st);
- Joiners, Southampton (23rd);
- The Lexington, London (24th);
- Louisiana, Bristol (26th) and
- Fleche d’or, Paris (27th)
If you can’t make any of those or just don’t like carrying records round on a night out you can order the album from the Sonic Cathedral webshop. For more on Younghusband visit their Tumblr or Facebook.