It's time once more for us to participate in an Uncharted Territory Revisited – those rare opportunities that we get to revisit a band whose initial flourishes we admired and see how time has shaped their musical vision. This month is American band Victims Of The New Math who we first ran the rule over in November. Their latest effort, The New Victorians, is just as familial in its construction, something which carried a notable charm in their early work. The only line-up changes have been the migration of Thomas Young's son Jackson from trumpet player to background vocalist and a whistling cameo from wife Kelly which had me waiting until the dying seconds of the record but left me envious with its note perfect delivery.
The album opens with title track The New Victorians as heavy waves of guitar wash us to a 'hipster hang out' where nostalgia-infused patrons indulge in parlour games beneath an electric sky. The Gift once more demonstrates the band's love for Tom Petty, at first carrying on the nostalgic milieu before slowly spiralling into a powerful resentment. A scratchy grit of static provides a filter of dirt for Unfinished Business to rattle beneath as Bowie circa melancholia drifts by, punctuated by heady bursts of electric guitar that leave you wanting more. Paul Knows The Way feels anecdotal in its construction, like if you knew the band it would hold a deep resonance. The rest of us will have to content ourselves in basking in its Beatles-like repetition and warm, soothing riffs. The real stand out track for me was closing song Find Your Way Home. It is a perfect people watching track, experienced by me for the first time in the middle of a packed tram during rush hour. Unspectacular but packed with poignancy, it serves as a perfect ellipsis to a period of self-reflection.
There are two things that really stood out to me about The New Victorians. The first is how much more streamlined the band's sound has gotten in the two years since 2016's Satellite Head. When that album was first brought to my attention, Thomas Young self-deprecatingly put the caveat on it that “it's not as slick as most releases, but we (like to) think the production gives our sound a warm, analog feel. Or it just sounds cheap:)”. I agreed with him at the time that the production worked in their favour but the sound of The New Victorians has taken the band to a new level and does allow the brothers' proficiency and message to better reach the listener.
On the subject of album message, the second thing that struck me about the record was that it is an album of dichotomies. Title track The New Victorians posits the forward thinking Victorians clamouring for the technology of the future against the modern day cool kids hankering after the past. Have we allowed society to carry us so far forward that we are destined to long for a simpler time? Are You Happy sees consumerism face off against enlightenment and even The Gift explores the fear and anguish that can be attached to something usually considered jovial. All the while, the music embraces the antagonism as downplayed vocals compete with fast paced, punchy riffs and uncomplicated lyrics take on significance when cast in the light of family endeavour. This album represents definite progress for the band and I am very much looking forward to hearing what they come up with next.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
“And I’m playing croquet//Right beside the topiary//Going for a ride out in the street//Wearing a top hat on a penny-farthing”
The New Victorians
Bygone eras and
Hanging hipsters on show as
Young brothers return
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