Something’s happening to Alec Ounsworth. He’s having acid flashbacks, he’s had a death in the family, girls are breaking his heart. It’s causing some sort of latent depression and chronic seriousness. Call it maturity. Analogous to the puberty it represents, this ‘growth’ is an unavoidable, unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Like being 15 and drinking too much at your sister’s wedding only to vomit on her cake and dress. Except this lacks anything memorable to recount at the anniversary, long after the wounds have healed and the stains have been dry-cleaned.
Alec abandons his shrill growl, trebly guitar, and any sense of fun. His frail, raw, meandering timbre has been subdued to one I couldn’t pick out of a line-up of nasally proficient vocalists. Instead of celebrating his juvenile past, he’s repressing, ruing, shunning it. “Mistakes of Youth” are regretted, under the misguided idea that he “should just grow up”. It sees whatever quasi-punk edge the fine Some Loud Thunder retained traded in for the scintillating spirit of adventure that probably drives Snow Patrol.
Come on, you can’t dance to these synths. You can barely sulk to them. The same beat permeating every track, the guitar harassing the same string in chase of a catchy melody never caught, or being drowned out by some cheap ploy? Strings don’t make boring songs less boring. They’re strings, they’re the mound of butter trying to salvage cold stale toast.
Look, I’ll level with you. It’s not all bad, just dull. “In A Motel” has some clever vocal melodies that survive despite the predictable violin and acoustic guitar, and “Maniac” kinda almost deserves the title of a decent homage to TMBG and A-Ha, if not a straight up rip off.
For the large part though, it’s an exercise in sterility, of needless self-imposed boundaries, feigned wisdom replacing authentic naivete of youth. Who knows what CYHSY were trying to prove with their first album? It was fun watching them try to prove it. Now, who cares what they’re trying to prove with this one?