Young Love - One of Us
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: April 28, 2009
As the former frontman of post-hardcore favorites Recover, Dan Keyes seemed as unlikely a candidate as anyone to hop on the dance-rock bandwagon, but that's exactly what he did, reinventing himself as Young Love and releasing his debut Too Young to Fight It on Island Records in early 2007. On that album's "Take It or Leave It," he sang, "I'm tryin' hard to have a good time," and at times, it seemed as though he was trying just a little too hard to fit into a genre that just wasn't natural for him, resulting in more than a few moments on the album that sounded a bit forced. Still, there was such a musical diversity displayed on the album, as it transitioned back and forth from dancefloor jams ("Discotech," "Find a New Way"), slow grooves ("Give Up," "Tell Me") and New Wave rockers ("Underneath the Night Sky"), and with hooks around just about every corner, it was generally an enjoyable listen.
I wasn't even aware that Keyes had been working on a second Young Love album until a short time before the release, but it definitely had me curious about what it would be like. It's often been said that a band essentially spends their whole lives up to that point writing their first album and only a comparatively short time completing their second, the result often being disappointingly subpar, and this insight would seem to make as much sense, if not more, in the realm of side projects, which usually arise from the artists' unbridled creative energy, with cliched quotes along the lines of "These songs just came out of me," and "I couldn't help but to write them," frequently popping up. The question is, what happens when you actually do have to write the songs for the follow-up? In the case of Young Love, you write an album that sounds pretty much just like the first one musically, except that the songs are not catchy, and I can't imagine anyone getting the urge to dance, even from the most uptempo tracks.
The album's opening two tracks, "Unafraid" and "One to Ten," are perfect examples of just what's wrong with this album. It's the same flaw that haunts tons of pop-punk albums these days, as well: mistaking uptempo for catchy. The result is songs that are annoyingly flat, to the point where you just want to press the skip button immediately."Get Me Up" starts out with a nice-enough groove, but with its silly robotic backing vocal and gang-shouted "hey!," it's likely to generate more laughs than bodies on the dancefloor.
It's seems Keyes creative well has run dry, and nowhere is there better evidence of this than on "Black Boots," which is mostly composed of annoying repetitions of the line, "Put your hands together for each other-er-er-er-er-er-er-er oh oh oh." The latter portion of the song features that line performed using some hideous vocoder effects that were probably meant to imitate Daft Punk, but end up sounding more like Breathe Carolina. "Down on Me" is the black sheep of the bunch, eschewing the dance vibe in favor of simple modern-rock balladry. It's just about as stale as it sounds ("lay your troubles down on me"), but sadly, it's also probably the album's best track. After that, Keyes is back to making frustrating futile attempts at creating dance music. "Don't Fight It," with its glitchy electronic elements and layers of repetitive, monotone vocals, is a definite head-scratcher, while "Love for Sale" tries to do too much sonically without having any legs to stand on.
The problem with One of Us is that, at its end, none of it sticks with you, even the most annoying parts. Too Young to Fight It was nothing all that special, but it contains a number of memorable toe-tappers and sing-alongs encompassing various styles, which was pretty much the point. Unfortunately, too many songs on this album sound a lot alike and none of them is really any good. Coming into One of Us, I wasn't looking for an album that would change my life, just one that might provide a few solid singles to sprinkle in some mixed playlists. Unfortunately, it wasn't even good for that.
Since I'm in Austin I can definitely say that Recover did recover...and is still recovered...but they've mostly just played local shows in Austin. They're still great and great live. Dan Keyes just needs to stick with that IMO. The awkward vocals are due mainly to Dan's background in a post-Hardcore band, it's an odd jump from that to the stuff you hear in Young Love. Rory Phillips is an awesome producer but he can't work miracles.