Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rogue Band of Youth - Rogue Band of Youth

I haven't reviewed many local releases lately...  this despite the fact that there have been an ungodly number of great releases by local bands in the past several months.  It's time consuming, I'm at a sort of bottleneck in my writing stream, and I've been ridiculously busy of late.  But sometimes, the music demands it.

I didn't think I'd like Rogue Band of Youth's debut release this much.  They're the project fronted by Patrick O'Neill, who also frequents local stages as a member or Schooner and Some Army.  It's folky, rootsy, country-tinged rock.  It's very well played.  I enjoyed their live show a lot.  But I can usually take or leave this kind of music.  Sitting here, however, up later than I should be after a stressful evening trying to derail an autistic meltdown from my beautiful progeny, listening to this record for the fifth or sixth time... this is heart-just rendingly beautiful stuff.

It starts with a little Dodos-flavored guitar on Fair Shake, a song of trying to back out of a life of repeated failures.  Bittersweet, beautiful harmonies and violin kick in, elements which repeat throughout, setting the tone of the record.  Jazz-tinged guitar & keys anchor the more forward-looking The West In My Eyes, which musically and lyrically takes you from coast to coast, but on a journey perhaps born more of necessity than pleasure.  Daedalus follows, echoing, maybe, Bowerbirds?

Slow Down has the album hitting stride, with harmonies that are almost CSNY-reincarnated, and ... is that a theremin?  And the violin.  Georgeous notes alternate with this beautiful, squeaky, tonal chaos that I'm sure has a classical term, but I'm too uneducated to know it.  I say "violin" despite this band having country-ish roots and you expecting me to say "fiddle".  This is VIOLIN.  What I know must be the classical roots of violinist Chloe Gude show.  This sublimeness is balanced by a dark, minor-key bridge and a rebellious shouted chorusFrogs and crickets back the instrumental intermission, ...And the Tiny Strings, leading into the more optimistic (sounding anyway) Smoke Screens and Blind.

Sharp and wonderful lyrics abound. "Ink has a funny way of taking away everything we know"... "All messed up, never got a fair shake / All fucked up, no one left to blame"... "Silently falling from the heights of my desire."  The use of the lyrics with the music is often exceptional as well.  When O'Neill sings "I've got the west in my eyes", it's done in a way that beckons an escape across the country; then the wide-open guitar that follows almost physically pulls you there. 

There seemed to be some anticipation in the local music community to this release.  The more I listen to it, the more I can see why.  I wasn't planning on writing anything at all tonight, and probably never a review of this record.  But like I said, sometimes the music demands it. 

After a brief tour of the region to promote their album, Rogue Band of Youth returns to the Triangle to play  Slim's in downtown Raleigh Friday night, with Prypyat and Woolens.

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