Young Girls. Photo: Courtesy of Artist
There aren’t too many bands today where you can pinpoint a ton of influences to their sound and yet they don’t directly copy those who influence them. When I think of Houston’s Young Girls, I always think of their ferociously tight and terse sound, closer to a garage rock and bubblegum mixture of bands like Stiff Little Fingers and Television. While their first release had hints of bands like The Replacements and The Cure, their second release felt like an homage to three part harmonies, and their new album, Party Blood, feels closer to Protomartyr than anything they’ve done in the past. Snappy rhythms, driving beats and melodic guitar drench each and every track, while those three part harmonies dance on and off the album like thieves in the night. The end result is an album that’s catchy, hook-heavy, and one you’ll find yourself placing on repeat time and time again.
Before starting, it should be noted that this album is mastered to be played loud, so playing it over headphones might shock you a bit on the first listen. This is evident with the roaring guitar that opens the first track, “For Me.” The band quickly echoes acts like The Jam, The Kinks and Wire with their mixture of reverb-soaked guitar, popcorn like drums, and an almost sneer in the vocals. It feels like they’re daring you to not get moving when the bass rolls in, just like you’d be foolish to not expect it while you quickly realize how much you’ve missed the mixture of sounds this band has always brought to the table. They keep things in the same vein on the second track with the more doo-wop vibe of “What We Do.” The multiple sing-song backing vocals they employ so skillfully come in fast, but they don’t deter from that vocal sneer before the band’s signature falsetto vocals come in and get your head bopping. It’s almost as if this album could’ve come out in the late seventies when the British punk and new wave scenes started to meld together and no one would notice that it wasn’t of that era. The band takes a little closer approach to a sounds that’s closer to if Buddy Holly played with The Beach Boys on the third song, “Marfa.” Laced with sixties garage pop, indie rock progressions and a bassline that’s similar to the one Joy Division loved so much, the song deters from what the band normally does while still feeling natural on the album.
The band brings back that heavy new wave feel of the electrifying fourth song, “New York City Love.” With a bass line that The Strokes were always attempting and vocals that have a dissonance The Strokes could never effectively reach, the catchy pop hooks are pretty much at the core of this song. The head-bopper is one that stays with you long after the first listen while the lyrics are cut with a piercing guitar that’s nothing short of amazing in how it delivers. While the fifth track, “Losing It,” hearkens closer to songs that the band has released before, it should be noted that the bridge in the song is delivered with an intensity that most bands could never get close to, and it’s the crazed intensity of the sixth song, “Broke For Dreaming,” that serves as a standout. It’s not really that the band does anything extraordinary here, but rather the intense nature of the song, the highly-placed energy levels, and the driving nature in which they craft a song — one that would normally get categorized into pop — as something completely and entirely different. The double-vocals mixed with the speedy guitar before the solo notes come out and create a sound that’s the band’s own, while the heavy drums add a whole new depth to what you’ve become accustomed to from them.
Where that new wave-heavy sound from their first album creeps in on the seventh song “Lucy,” the band breaks new ground on the following song, “Texas.” The track is possibly closer to something you would’ve found on “Doolittle” from Pixies, though there’s an added element from the two different vocal parts that even Kim Deal and Black Francis never had in such sync. That whole garage-pop vibe gets thrown out quickly on this track in favor for something that echoes the beginning of the alt rock movement before there was even a name for it at all. That feeling is present several tracks later on “Street Lights,” though the band cuts through that sentiment with their signature doo-wop vocals before adding another piercing guitar to bring the depth of the track into a new realm. They close things off with the almost Police sounding energy of “Behind These Lines.” The driving force of the music dances alongside dual vocals and a bassline that showcases that the instrument is not to be ignored, which really shines a light on the diversity that makes Young Girls sound like no one else.
While the band keeps their core sound intact, they explore new options that not only work for them, but place them further ahead of so many bands in music today. You can grab your own physical copy of Party Blood when Young Girls play Continental Club on Saturday June 11. The 21 and up show with Raceway, Rose Selavy, Vas Deferens, and DJ Uniporn has doors at 8 pm and it’s 100% FREE.