Sound — 10
Gang of Youths are an indie rock band from Sydney, Australia. They came together after lead singer, David Le'aupepe, got some of his friends he met at a Christian Youth Group when he was younger to record some songs he wrote. After getting airplay on a local radio station, singles "Evangelist" and "Riverlands" started getting decent rotation on Australian radio station Triple J. This encouraged the band to keep on writing music together, which led to their debut album, "The Positions."
The Positions has been said to sound like a mix between Bruce Springsteen, U2, Kings Of Leon, The Killers, The National and Gaslight Anthem. The songs usually revolve around slow starts and climatic finishes, with strong build up in between. This is evident in the opener "Vital Signs," which starts off very quite but build into an anthem.
The guitar work on the album is very bluesy. David and Joji (lead guitarist) work well together, with the latter using his guitar pedals to the full effect, creating brilliant riffs and ingenious fills (a great example of this is in the fourth track on the album "Restraint and Release"). The basslines in the song are generally walking but add exactly what the music needs and often feel as if they're holding the song together (see "Radioface"), as do the drums which, over the whole album, are played by three different drummers. The album also utilities many synths, piano/keyboards, and even strings which features in the beautiful ballad "Kansas." It's hard to believe that the album was released on a small budget, as the sound quality is amazing (although Kevin McMahon is a great producer).
Lyrics — 10
David Le'aupepe is a brilliant vocalist. His husky tones and commanding voice leads the whole album. At his lowest, he sounds a lot like Matt Berninger (The National) (see "Knuckles White Dry"), but at his biggest he sounds like a young Bono (see the ending of "Radioface"). His falsetto/head voice is also very good, coming to a forefront in songs like "Magnolia" and "Kansas." The backup vocals, provided mainly by Joji and Max, are also very good. There's nothing to complain about vocally.
But although the music and vocals are strong, it's the lyrics which are the albums shining light. Le'aupepe wrote the lyrical side of the album about his four year relationship with a girl with terminal illness, and often touches on themes of long distance relationships, financial problems and even a drunken suicide attempt ("Magnolia"). The brutal honest in the lyrics make reading them a mission, it's hard to get over how truly sad this man was when writing. A few examples of this are listed below:
From "Knuckles White Dry": "If I hear another 'I love you, get well'/From someone we don't know or that I didn't tell/Then I swear that I'll show them a vision of hell/It gets tiresome you know."
From "Magnolia": "There's no way to lie, as far as I know/if heaven won't take me, then I'm staggering home."
From "Poison Drum": "I am doing everything I can/for the minds of men that I've never met/too tired from saving money just to save myself."
The album's lyrics paint one of the saddest paintings I've ever seen/heard in music history. It will make you cry at least once... that's a guarantee.
Overall Impression — 10
1. "Vital Signs" - Described as a song about the pain of being apart from his partner, this is a great opener. With beautiful hits by a glockenspiel it builds up brilliantly into an epic jam.
2. "Poison Drum" - The first single of the album, the 6 and half minute, Springsteen-eque jam is a great way to be welcomed to the album. When David repeats "I'm not afraid," as if he's trying to convince himself that he isn't, and then screams out "I'm terrified" it just shows how scarred he is.
3. "The Diving Bell" - For one of the shortest songs on the album, this song fits a lot in it. The beautiful synths combines with the thumping drums contrast brilliantly and provide a plain where David's voice can play around a big range.
4. "Restraint and Release" - Probably the heaviest track on the album, courtesy of some brilliant rhythm guitar work and drumming, this song keeps up the action packed flow that was left by the first three. It's not the most outstanding song on the album, but I guarantee you'll be screaming with David "HEY! CAN'T YOU SEE!"
5. "Magnolia" - My personal favourite(and supposedly the fan fave as well), this song lyrically is heart breaking but, as I've already mentioned, feels quite happy and upbeat. About David's drunken suicide attempt (which he is proud to say was his stupidest decision ever), there's something uplifting and fun about chanting "I'm drunk and I'm ready/to kick some a-s tonight." The beautiful synth backing of this song is brilliant as well.
6. "Kansas" - Solely written and recorded by David, this song is a beautiful strings based song, using the famous quote from "Wizard of Oz," "we're not in Kansas anymore" to describe the change of lifestyle due to his partner's illness. If you wanted proof of his upper range, this is it.
7. "Knuckles White Dry" - From a song based around the upper range comes a song based around his lower range. "KWD" may be the songs tearjerker (which it has massive competition in). I can't really say anything else about the piano led song, but if you listen carefully to the song, there will be tears in your eyes.
8. "Radioface" - After finishing listening to this song for the first time you'll think you were listening to "The Joshua Tree" by U2. It's an epic stadium jam and the songs second single. Just wait for the ending of the song when the song just goes nuts...wow
9. "Sjamboksa" - This song is beautiful. The Coldplay-esque post-chorus guitar riffs, the beautiful baritone vocals, the booming bassline and the thumping drums, it's just a great song.
10. "The Overpass" - I first heard the acoustic version of this song, but this version blows it away. The beautifully weird synths in the verse with lyrics like "I am your protection/your last line of defence," followed by the epic chorus detailing a night out in Harlem with his partner, it's a beautiful way to finish a flawless album.
Gang of Youths have created a masterpiece. It's a concept album about David's relationship and the emotional journey he experienced through it. In David's own words, it's "a long glorified cluster f--k of a coping mechanism." And with all the sadness, the pain, the brutal honesty of this emotionally scarring relationship, somehow the album has an uplifting feel. Songs like "Magnolia," "Radioface," "Poison Drum," "Restraint and Release" and "Diving Bell" truly sound uplifting. It's as if hitting rock bottom (especially in "Magnolia") gives the songs the strength to get back up and get on with life. It's a beautiful message that no matter how low you are, you can still get better, there is still a chance of making it out on the other side. And that is why this album can't get any lower of a rating than a 10