Review of Youth Album by Wild Cub

Fifteen songs is a lot for one album. Rarely, if ever, does an album of such volume deliver consist-ently across the piece. Still, that is exactly what Wild Cub have served up on their debut album 'Youth'. In many ways, attempting such an expansive album on debut should be applauded.  After all, shouldn't we want artists to indulge themselves in the free expression of all their ideas across the course of an album? The problem for Wild Cub is that while the first half of 'Youth' shimmers and sparkles in a beguiling haze of intelligent indie pop, the second half sounds jaded - a faded rehash of the elements which worked so well earlier.

Wild Cub Youth Album

The most frustrating thing about 'Youth' is that, had Wild Cub been more ruthless, they could have cut the slack and delivered a highly listenable indie-pop record. Intriguing opener 'Shapeless' is driv-en by a highly melodic bass line, propelling the song forward over shuffling electronic drums and stabs of synth which betray a new wave influence. In what sounds like a definite nod to the sound Foals have perfected, there's muted, reverb-soaked guitar at work here too, although it's buried so deeply in the mix that it takes several listens to reveal itself.

'Colour' is equally impressive, again utilising Foals-esque guitar stylings, but this time pushing them to the front of the mix and combining them with huge 80s style drums and synthesisers to create highly melodic indie pop with a slight retro slant. Album highlight 'Thunder Clatter' comes early. It's a bluster of joyous wide-eyed optimism atop intricately interchanging guitar riffs. The bridge in particu-lar is the melodic highlight of the album, with an irresistibly infectious riff that elevates the song above anything else present on 'Youth'.

Unfortunately, when the best three songs on an album are the first three, and that album has fifteen songs on it, the work as a whole suffers. That's not to say that the rest of the album is poor.  Cer-tainly, the momentum created through the quality of the start of the album carries through its first half. Flitting between new wave synth stabs and inventive guitar riffs which dovetail elegantly, 'Wishing Well', 'The Water' and 'Hidden In The Night' are all good songs in their own right.

After eight songs, however, Wild Cub have effectively demonstrated what they're all about.  Dreamy vocals, never really the focal point of the song, glide over highly melodic guitar riffs and synths, creating an mesmerising hybrid of intelligent indie and new wave sensibilities. In the songs which follow, Wild Cub do little more than recycle the ideas they've already exhausted. While at its best 'Youth' sounds inventive and exuberant, latter songs such as 'Summer Fires/Hidden Spells' and 'Streetlights' sound too familiar and a little formulaic.

The result is frustrating because Wild Cub have enough material on 'Youth' to make it an accom-plished debut. When the weak back end of the album is removed, what's left is thoughtful, well con-structed indie pop, perfect for soundtracking lazy summer days. Across 'Youth''s fifteen songs, however, Wild Cub have actually delivered is a bloated record which shines brightly before fading into the forgettable. Still, there's enough promise on 'Youth' to suggest that it would be foolish to write off Wild Cub at this early stage.


Alex Wignall

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