I first became aware of the band Youth Group when I heard their cover of Alphaville’s 1984 single “Forever Young” on the early-2000s hit, primetime soap opera The O.C. It was prominently featured on several episodes, and the terrific rendition of the song forced me to take notice of this Australian quartet.
That was in 2005. In late 2008, a track from the band’s latest album appeared on The O.C. creator’s current television project, Gossip Girl. Clearly, Youth Group’s songs fit the bill for primetime television dramas aimed primarily at teenagers, but what does this say about their newest album, The Night Is Ours?
The Night Is Ours is the band’s fourth studio album. A melodic album that falls somewhere between rock and pop, the sound of this CD is comparable to recent releases by Death Cab for Cutie or Snow Patrol. Chris Walla, the guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie and noted producer, even mixed four of the songs on the album.
Each of the ten tracks on the album features intricately layered instruments accompanied by Toby Martin’s nostalgic vocals. The first song on the album, “Good Time”, slowly builds into a crescendo as Martin’s haunting vocals are slowly joined by various instruments to craft a wonderful harmony. Patrick Matthews (formerly of fellow Australian rock band The Vines) plays bass, and he seizes his opportunity to flex his musical talent and play some solid bass lines in several tracks (See: “One For Another”). The songs range in topic from a drowning man overboard a cruise ship coming to terms with his fate to the more existential-minded “What Is A Life?”
The band took a unique approach to recording this album. Rather than write the songs prior to the recording process, Youth Group chose to write and record in the same process so as to capture the immediacy and intimacy of the moment. The unique approach serves as an attempt to avoid some of the post-production handicapping that might otherwise hamper the emotional efficacy of the tracks. The band converted an 80-year-old mess hall on Sydney’s harbor into their recording studio, supplying all the necessary equipment themselves.
Hook-laden choruses are found on nearly every track. Youth Group has truly shown a purity of vision with this album, as long-time fans and newcomers alike can enjoy these well-crafted, agreeable songs. There is also good instrumental variety featured on the album. “Babies In Your Dreams” has a supporting brass section. “Two Sides” features more synthesizers as Martin croons about looking for oblivion.
Perhaps Youth Group has simply figured out what music producers for teenage-aimed dramas like to hear. Or maybe these music producers just have an ear for fantastic songs, and they find a way to work these songs into pivotal scenes of the show. Either way, Youth Group has found success in this niche market thus far, and along the way they have made a terrific record for anyone to enjoy, whether you watch television programs about privileged teenagers dealing with their angst or not.