Saturday, October 23, 2010

SoCal gulf n' rollers evoke Nico, clear waters

Young the Giant
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Young the Giant (formerly the Jakes) is a SoCal band that writes reverb-drenched songs with a beachy, distinctly Californian vibe. I know what you’re probably thinking--yet another lo-fi, surf-influenced hipster group, along the lines of Beach Fossils or Best Coast. Actually, Young the Giant represent quite a different side of the beach-pop spectrum--they’re light on Ventures guitars and bored-teen lyrics, choosing instead to evoke the more relaxed and carefree side of the coast.

Maybe when they were young, they were the beach kids who played in the water with inflatable balls while Sublime smoked by the outhouses and Nathan Williams tossed his twentieth joint into the bonfire, sick of everyone else. While their streetwise buddies used what they heard blasting from clubs and low riders on the street as the points of reference for their music, the YTG guys likely studied the annals of rock history, listening to Chelsea Girls and Here’s Little Richard between their studies and their hours of carefree fun. Sameer Gadhia, the group’s lead singer, was probably a Velvet Underground fan, and his speech-app vocal delivery bears more than a passing similarity to that of Nico.

This doesn’t mean the group is not in tune with their native land. The polyrhythms suggest Latin music at times, and flashes of L.A. rave and San Diego noise pop up in their songs sometimes. But we must remember that this band is not from Los Angeles--they’re from Newport Beach, an Orange County town that stands as one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Young the Giant is primarily interested in evoking images of margaritas and clear waters rather than blunts and libertines. This actually serves the group well, as there is no sense of whiny pretention in their music. And they have the intelligence and chops to sufficiently steer clear of Jimmy Buffett territory.

And while this is all good and fine, Young the Giant’s self-titled is certainly not a remarkable album. There are, in fact, a number of great songs (“My Body" and "Cough Syrup" are the best), but for the most part, the tunes here are rather forgettable and melt into each other to create what is not cohesion but rather a drab blur. These boys, it seems, need to have a good night on the town once in a while--go to a party, have some drinks, get some pizza at 1 AM, and maybe even scream vengeance on humanity once in a great while.

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