Gang of Youths exist on the very outer limits of pop. Although there is an upbeat, radio-friendly element to their work, the force that drives their debut album The Positions is the throbbing force of pain. In that way it’s not hard to see the band immediately connecting with a whole plethora of disconnected teenagers: they craft tunes that feel deeply indebted to the trials and tribulations of high school. Apt band name indeed, then.
The band’s slick yet rebellious sound is best represented by the album’s second track; the upbeat Poison Drum. It’s a song that appeals directly and unashamedly to those late nights you spent avoiding homework, staring at the ceiling, and losing yourself in music. It’s a cautiously hopeful, powerfully felt tune, performed by a talented band firing on all cylinders.
The balance between darkness and hope doesn’t always work, however: seven minute album opener Vital Signs seems to careen wildly between the two polar opposites, and ultimately comes across as sloppy and aimless. Similarly, Knuckled White Dry never quite gets where it’s going, and takes a jagged route to an emotional climax that feels slightly underwhelming.
But when you’re walking a tightrope as fine as the Gang of Youth’s, you’re bound to fall once in a while – it’s why we have safety nets, after all – and ultimately the album is startlingly successful. By combining the epic with the heartfelt, Gang of Youths elevate pains that other bands might dismiss as trivial. Restraint and Release, Radioface and album closer The Overpass all score exceptionally high, operating in the same territory as LCD Soundsystem’s This is Happening or Chromatics’ Night Drive.
There has been an exceptional amount of love and care poured into this release, most evident on the touching The Diving Bell, an anthem for the hopeful and the disenfranchised. Without ever being patronizing or flippant, Gang of Youths tap into feelings of youthful rebellion and hope, meaning that although adolescents might be the age group that propel this band into stardom, the music is accessible to all.
As a towering homage to the inner life of the teenage, The Positions is a triumph. But it’s not just that: it’s an exceptionally assured release from a band destined for some very good things.