by Gary Miller
If Death To Palaces, the 2007 full-length by Seattle powerpoppers Young Sportsmen, was a gas guzzling muscle car, then their newest release, titled If You Want It, is a high-end European sportster. While both can get your heart pumping, the latter is equally likely to impress you with its detail and handling.
That’s not to say they’ve lost their oomph. Indeed, tracks like “The Deadenders” and “Sesame Street Fightin’ Man” are prototypical YS with drums-a-bashing, bass-a-churning and guitars-a-grinding. But, under the guidance of producer Johnny Sangster, they’ve taken their trademark power and added more depth, more shading and more texture. The results are completely effective at both the highest highs and the slowest burns.
The opening salvo, “Girl Pants” begins with pounding toms and bass. But, in place of the expected crashing guitars, you instead get melodic interplay that is reminiscent of something Bloc Party or even XTC might bring to the table. A triumvirate of indierock “super” bands (Supergrass, Superdrag, Superchunk) are good reference points across other tracks like “Marion’s Nova” and “Summer Ace.”
Also of note here are the evocative lyrics. I’ll admit to mostly not understanding exactly what Wesley is singing about. But, he is a master of setting a mood and evoking a feeling without beating you over the head with his intended meaning. Whether it’s the hypnotic chant of “through the eye we’ll go” at the end of “Metropolitan” or the refrain of “everything we have today is resting on the shoulders of a maybe” in “Tomorrow Disappears,” it seems providing the ability to apply your own experience to his phrasing is exactly what he’s going for.
The true success of this record is the perfect balance between a clobbering energy and a nimble melody. In short, this album soars. If this record doesn’t show up on numerous 2008 best-of lists, I’ll eat my hat.