Youngblood Hawke - Wake Up | Album Review | By Volume

I knew we'd never write. somehow that seemed alright. This counts as calling three years out. The Wrens - 13 Months in 6 Minutes

Youngblood Hawke

Wake Up

A sterile sound for a sterile new wave.

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Author: on August 18, 2013
Universal Republic
April 23, 2013

Genres usually manifest in retrospect. Five, ten, twenty years later we wake up from our musical indifference and realize that we must immediately find a distinct label under which to put that album we love. By doing so, we needlessly cage artists up, and we spark futile arguments about whether or not Pinkerton is emo or indie. Yet there is a new genre emerging right before our eyes from the sterile remnants of indie rock; an offensively inoffensive brand of sunshine-washed power-pop for the Youtube generation. Big reverb, wishy-washy vocals and thumping beats all-too-casually trip over each other on their way out of the speakers. A wave of innocuous lyrics float in one ear and straight out the other. Barely a year after their inception, Youngblood Hawke (with their clumsy prog-rock name) have shuffled themselves firmly under the umbrella of indifference, sheltered from the hailing grit of the real world. It was only a matter of time before prime time chat shows started lapping them up; before their impending popularity was truly cemented — bizarre that this was before lead single “We Come Running” managed featuring in a Coca-Cola ad campaign, just about slamming the final nail in the coffin. In truth, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that it is only a matter of time before I forget literally everything about debut album Wake Up. No, it’s a rare breed of album so infuriatingly harmless that it’s surprisingly easy to forget the album while you’re listening to it.

Everyone loves a picnic. Everyone loves a cupcake with icing. Everyone loves a good rainbow. But what Youngblood Hawke offer you with Wake Up is all three at once, served by a man in a wool-hemp blazer, whose pet poodle is sat at his feet, smoking a pipe. It is twee to a near-farcical extent, yet its ready-packaged punch impacts like a painted-on smile, the unwavering euphoria sounding frustratingly flat through the super-compressed, bland mix the album was funneled through. The flaccid woah-woahs and sha-la-las fit like a square peg in a round hole for swathes of the record, particularly when inelegantly forced alongside the album’s other wildly misjudged sonic experiments — such as the unexpected drop into Guetta-esque synths toward the end of “We Come Running”. Perhaps more curious, however, is that on tracks such as “Dreams”, “Blackbeak” and the interminable “Live & Die”, Youngblood Hawke appear to ill-advisedly stumble into a faux-dubstep territory of sorts. The result is not dissimilar to listening to break beats played on a xylophone; it feels neither urgent nor necessary, and it acts perfectly as a microcosm, as the entire album is much like the audio equivalent of the feeling one experiences when looking at a bland item of furniture.

Youngblood Hawke are, so far, an outfit tainted by missed opportunity. “I’m feeling rootless” sings Sam Martin on the opening track, but one thing’s for sure; Youngblood Hawke are not without blatant roots. The number of bands you can hear floating through their unobtrusive sound are countless, and at numerous points while I waited for Wake Up to end (which felt like an eternity), I found myself contemplating their music less than I did other bands they bear more than a passing resemblance to. They’re a less psychedelic MGMT, a less groove-oriented Two Door Cinema Club, a less Swedish ABBA. Even the slightly more ballsy “Dreams, one of the few intriguing moments the record apportions, sounds scarily like “Ghosts by The Presets, if it had been composed in a board room. Lifeless, emotionless and ruthlessly banal, Wake Up is Youngblood Hawke stalling on the starting line, straining to hold that evergreen grin while their adroit contemporaries disappear over the horizon with furrowed brows.

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