HOW INSENSITIVE - Young Modern (Croxton Records)
Considered Australia’s first power pop band - they debuted in 1977, supporting Radio Birdman no less - Adelaide’s Young Modern only released one fab single before splitting in ’79, having existed a mere two years. A posthumous collection of demos was released in 1980, and that album, like "Shake Some Action", "The Real Kids", "Drop Out with the Barracudas","Radio’s Appear" and probably only a handful of others, is now surely transcribed on my DNA.
The band’s plaintive strumming and soulful jangle was actually my introduction to this most-maligned of musical genres (a couple of Stuart Coupe pieces on the band in RAM in '79 actually set me on the trail of Big Star, the Groovies and the like) , so this new album – basically the original band (minus one) doing all the old songs they never recorded at the time - is a thrill indeed.
To know what these guys sound like, think a far less sophisticated version of pre-punk power pop progenitors Big Star, Badfinger or the Dwight Twilley Band. Think Bomp-era 20/20, a less austere Shoes, or, with this new album in particular, the Paul Collins Band's underrated 'From Town To Town' album. If this is indeed power pop – and I like Mike Saunder’s quaint term from the early 70’s "light weight rock" or Greg Shaw’s original description "Beatle rock" better – it’s not of the Who’s power chord school. Songs like the brash "Lies" and the loping "It’s Her Way" sit nicely with "Hard Day’s Night"-era Beatles, while "Pensacola Blues" (with some Little Feat-ish slide) and "It Happened Today" bring to mind the rootsy feel of the British pub rock scene and some of the early Stiff artists. "Do You Care" and "Girl of Mine", their two best ever songs, surge with more power, but are closer to say Velvet Crush than they are The Raspberries. Sunnyboys fans will dig 'em too.
"Catholic Girls", which actually dates from an early ‘80s solo project from vocalist and main man John Dowler, chimes sweetly, while only "Home of the Brave" – an old melody with new lyrics and a bit of social commentary no less; and the title track – a rewrite of a rather childish old tune called "Build Yourself A Girl" – come on a bit older and wiser and remind me of Dowler’s ‘80s band The Zimmermen (remember ‘Don’t Go To Sydney’?)
Whoever they sound like, every track here is a cracker, and it's hard to believe that it's 30 years since these guys came up with this stuff. I first heard this album before I even knew the band was considering a reformation, and - such is their ability to replicate their orginial spark - I half thought that someone had unearthed an old tape. It really is that good.
As exciting as this is, maybe I'm even more thrilled about the prospect of finally seeing Young Modern live, some 28 years after I first heard them. They're doing two shows only: in Adelaide at the Grace Emily Hotel this Saturday April 14, and in Melbourne, at the Wintergarden Room at the Exford Hotel in the city, Saturday May 5. Go here for more info. - Dave Laing
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