Monday, 1 April 2013

Mean Creek - Youth Companion

Album review by

Mean Creek's second album 'Youth Companion' finds them taking classic influences of Neil Young w/Crazy Horse, Springsteen at his rawest, blended with more contemporary sounds from the Arcade Fire, Band of Horses and their own hometown alt-rock peers of Buffalo Tom and the Lemonheads to produce a strong, rich album of anthemic, '80s-tinged Americana. The album's opener 'Do You Know' lays down the blueprint of ragged guitars, raw vocals, underpinned with sweet, sharp female counterpoint to add a dash a colour.

Without catching its breath, 'Youth Companion' piles into the second track 'Shakey', similarly raw and ragged as the opener, Mean Creek then show that they are not all about shouting to the rooftops and bring a welcome change of pace with 'Evel Knievel'. Here the Arcade Fire-isms are at there strongest. The track has an almost early '80s feel, blending male/female leads with chiming new-wave guitars and huge, almost Big Country-style drums powering the track, and wistful lyrics of a broken teenage heart that work intrinsically well. With the refrain of "always remember the promise we made" being repeated through the track like a plea to the long lost romeo, which leads to him apologising his "love wasn't enough". 'Youth Companion' then takes a sombre dip over the next two tracks with 'Indian Summer' deadening the pace. Here it's darker plaintive sounds may have been better suited as an album closer.

Gratefully, it picks up with 'Come On Before It's Gone'. Starting out with exquisite fuzzy guitar lead that recalls Dinosaur Jr. at their prettiest, it settles into a another strong track with our heartbroken romeo pleading for it to work, as the song echoes hometown heroes Buffalo Tom. The following 'You Were Wrong' could easily have sat alongside early U2 with its Edge-like guitar and pounding drums. Evoking windswept drama of heartbreak. This is one of the stand-out tracks. After this peak, Youth Confusion dips slightly as 'Sweet Thing' sounds quite pedestrian by contrast, only the strength of the vocals and some lovely Cure-esque basslines lift the song at it's conclusion.

At times the constant lyrical themes of heartbreak and longing, questioning, can be almost suffocating. You almost long for them to kiss, make-up and walk off into the sunset. This heartbreak is at its most stifling on 'The Reason Why'. The track is aiming for simply prettiness but ends up being a wallow at the bottom of a bottle of cheap wine. Closing track 'The Comedian' channels all this heartbreak and rips it into Bad Seeds raw blues stomp, climaxing with howling guitars and throat-shredding vocal, as you can picture the final photo of the elusive couple being ripped into pieces and stomped on as the song/album ends in roar of squealing feedback.

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