Youngblood Hawke - Wake Up
Record Label: Republic Records
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Somebody somewhere will find something worth championing about Youngblood Hawke, but this writer certainly won't. On their twelve song effort Wake Up the band packs more sugary hooks on any disc since Lord knows when. Opener "Rootless" is synth-driven, sun-splashed and uplifting. Bolstered by a huge hook, this is air-tight radio pop at its finest. Successor "We Come Running" is the band's debut single and shines from start to finish. Sweeping, effervescent and colorful, "We Come Running" is backed by the West Los Angeles Children's Choir to help make it that much more titanic.
On "Dreams" the quintet once again employs a bursting chorus and shivers and shakes with reckless abandon. The quickest comparison is Grand Rapids' Stepdad but there are probably dozens of other references to compare to Youngblood's accessible songcraft. "Dannyboy" is a synth-infused dance romp and arguably vocalist Simon Katz's best song.There's a sense of panache and charisma at work here that seems to point towards the band topping the charts before year's end. Of all the songs so far on Wake Up, this is the first one where the band sounds like the next big thing. In many ways "Danny Boy" is a wake up call, a siren song about embracing life and not sitting idle. The song is also the first moment at which female vocalist Alice Katz makes her first pronounced appearance.
Side one of the LP ends with soon-to-be second single "Stars (Hold On)" and "Glacier." The former is an urban nod to hip-hop and Nate Ruess and Katz dabbles in falsetto. Indubitably a summer anthem, "Stars" is an ode to the sun and an anthemic effort about being young. The latter is an urgent and hyper-caffeinated song that soars and coasts with a saccharine rush that is certain to be found on many a workout mix across this fine nation. But crafting a standout album is knowing when to employ restraint and to pull back the reins. That Wake Up starts with six successive titanic efforts is commendable but also somewhat disappointing.
On the second half of the LP, the formula remains the same. "Sleepless Streets" is another Ruess homage and the first moment at which the band can arguably be described as copy-cats. Alice Katz once again chimes in and the song employs a carefree, no-worries approach that for all intents and purposes feels like the band's mission statement. A shuffling and jubilant midtempo effort, the song is also the first moment at which the music of Youngblood Hawke can be best described as shallow, wearing and banal. The fact of the matter is Wake Up desperately needs a song of depth.
"Say Say" is a synth-supported narrative where the quintet for the first time feels stripped down and bare-bones. Additionally, the vocals are cleaner than on any prior effort so far. Once again (as if you doubted it), "Say Say" boasts a giant chorus and it is here that one fact is undeniable: The album has yet to have a song that isn't accessible or commercial. In an effort to quell the notion that they aren't deep or thought-provoking the band throws out "Blackbeak," a bombastic and vocally-driven tour-de-force that drips with smoothness, charisma and crispness. There's an undeniable sex appeal here that exudes from the very beginning. When Alice Katz steps to the mic however, her status in the band gets seen in a whole new light. Why wasn't she stepping to the mic earlier on the disc? Why hasn't she had a chance to sing lead?
The album's closing triumvirate includes "Forever," "Live and Die" and "Last Time." The former is a simple and sweet meditation that desperately needed to be earlier in the tracklisting. That the song results in the same conclusion as "Blackbeak," is also the point at which Youngblood Hawke begins to get frustrating. While "Forever" Is accessible and radio-ready it could easily be background music at a house party. Why couldn't the song have just stayed in its somber sweetness? Why did it have to scale higher and higher? Ditto to the falsetto-laden "Live and Die," which opens strong before blending into the background. Wake Up closes with "Last Time" which opens with the stilted words, "I wrote a letter to the generation."
And it is there that Youngblood Hawke loses all of its credibility. What started off so incredibly promising has faltered and withered to become so horribly one-dimensional. Never once do they utilize their potential, never once do they rise past their gigantic choruses. The quickest words to describe the album as a whole are vibrant and danceable, because quite frankly, it's hard to frown when listening to Wake Up. And yet despite that very fact and despite the cavalcade of radio-ready material, Wake Up is veritable proof that the Ke$ha's of the world are winning out. Maybe music really is dead after all.
I think your being a tad harsh. No there isn't a song on the album that really digs deep and finds some real heart but on the other hand there isn't a single bad song on the album. Are they one dimensional? Yes. Did they try to hard to be commercially accessible? Yes. But when the album ends I'm not disappointed one bit and can't wait to hear it again.
I just had to create an account after reading this to tell you how much of a MORON you are mr Robson... Not only is this review completely and utterly full of inacuracies (You didn't even name the right band member as the lead singer), but your approach to journalism is horribly despicable. Your apparent lack of research is extremely evident. You decided you would say what all the songs were about without reading what they ACTUALLY are about. You didn't even look into why the band has a optimistic and positive viewpoint on their record. They've talked about it in tons of interviews that Ive read. Its even on WIKIPEDIA. Its because they were in a deep depression at the time of writing it and were trying to dig themselves out through their music. You even misquoted the lyrics from "last time" which you said made them "loose all credibility" and I'm pretty sure you don't even know what the word "stilted" means... You are the type of "music journalist" that makes me believe real music journalism is dead. I hope to god this isn't your day job because SERIOUSLY MAN, YOU SUCK. Ive seen them live, met the band, and read real reviews where they actually ask the band questions and dig deeper into their lyrics. They are dark stories with an optimistic viewpoint. You probably googled a couple reviews, looked at a couple of photos, listened to the beginning of each song and then called it day. Your approach to "music journalism" is really disgusting and horribly destructive. You are terrible at being a journalist, thinking, reading, listening, and writing. It's so disappointing that anyone would give you a voice on a website I USED to respect. But, you should give yourself a huge pat on the back because this review made me remember why I never listen to bloggers with no credibility and zero substance.