After spending recent months focussing heavily on UK based artists, it is time for us to venture State-side for an album that is very much a family affair. The band are Victims Of The New Math and their line up consists of brothers Thomas and Joe Young who have been recording together on and off since the eighties. The family ties don't stop there though with relatives drafted in to assist with artwork, marketing, photography and even a little trumpeting thrown in for good measure. The album we are going to focus on is Satellite Head, the group's second, released in 2016.
Opening track Brand New Day fades in as a muggy sunrise as Elliott Smith-esque vocals and the aforementioned trumpet accompaniment lay out a track of apparent hope over a backdrop of low expectations. Reason To Be is a short and sweet uplifting track that combines a punchy sixties sound with soaring guitar solos. You Can Be My Brian Wilson sits as both a touching tribute to the Beach Boys front man as well as containing a nod of the head to Wilson's well-documented mental health issues and the power of love to overcome all obstacles. The guitar solo that kicks in towards the end is just sumptuous. Cosmic two part track Satellite Head is, at first, a mellow drift through a Bowie-like soundscape before morphing into a more energetic exploration of our disconnected, technology-driven society complete with superbly understated riffing. Closing track Missing You captures perfectly the desperation of a broken heart on a track where even the guitars feel dejected.
There is something that feels very personal to me about this album. Whilst obviously being very close, the Young brothers find themselves geographically located on opposite sides of the country with Thomas in Arizona and Joe in North Carolina. This couldn't help but remind me of my own brother and I who, whilst collaborating regularly on writing projects, have settled our lives in London and Manchester respectively. Admittedly, we are just over 200 miles apart which seems round the corner when compared to the 2000 miles that separate the Youngs but the sentiment is similar – endless e-mail attachments flipped back and forth, Skype calls hastily fit in around helping with homework. The Youngs are clearly making it work though and Satellite Head stands as a wonderful testament to never letting go of your dreams or the things that make you happy, irrespective of the steps that life takes to get in the way.
Musically, the album reminded me somewhat of Stiff Little Fingers in its raw, unpolished format. Victims Of The New Math have cultivated a garage band vibe that is en vogue enough that modern bands spend hours in studios trying to replicate it. I would even go as far as to say that the lack of significant production on the record better highlights the moments of pure brilliance as they are given an easier pedestal on which to stand. Vocally, they are far from the best I have ever heard however every crack in their musical proficiency is filled amply by their authenticity. Every time I hear a twang of Tom Petty in a lyric or a reminiscence of The Kinks floats through an instrumental, I can't help but imagine two brothers gathered around a record player hearing the songs that will shape the rest of their lives. This is music in its purest form and, like flicking through a box of old photographs, it is the warm, stuffy aroma of nostalgia that gilds this glorious record.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
“See all the stars in the Cadillac cars going looking for some action today//See all the kids with the satellite heads getting ready it’s a brand new day”
Brand New Day
Musical brothers capture
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