Picture Of Our Youth was an album that almost never got released. Paul Dixon, aka David’s Lyre, put out an EP called In Arms in February 2011 and the plan was follow that up with an LP on by the summer. That didn’t happen and his relationship with his label ended just before Christmas. The 22-year-old, however, now has the freedom to release his music on his own terms. Thus, his debut is unveiled via a pay-what-you-want model on Bandcamp.
So why didn’t it see the light of day on a major label? Is it because they heard the chiming Foals-esque guitars that pop up every now and again? Is it because it wasn’t pop and/or ’80s enough? The process seems to have exhausted Dixon who, announcing the retirement of the project, said to his fans: “I leave you with Picture Of Our Youth and hope that you choose to journey with me into my new projects and beyond.”
The album’s standout is The Fall. Its beginnings are skittery and a bass rumbles away in the background before its chorus explodes into life. The strings that sweep in towards the end for the final minute are also well-arranged and are the icing on the cake. You could quite happily digest a whole album’s worth of songs like that.
Compare this to the rather plaintive Piano Song, or These Trees, which promises adventure but ultimately feels lightweight. Even the sort-of title track, Picture Of, is a little short of gravitas. These tracks lack spark.
But flashes of excellence are also to be found. Hidden Ground gains plenty of momentum towards the end, and the unfussy-sounding Only Words is angular and funky. Lyrically they’re in good shape and evocative for the most part – phrases such as “seasons pass with ease but this heart won’t beat forever” on Heartbeat linger long in the memory. His voice is a curiosity, reminiscent of Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie but it is at least capable.
If anything, Picture Of Our Youth feels more like a disparate scrapbook than anything else, with good ideas that aren’t fully realised. That said, it’s only fair to cut him some slack after his own trials and tribulations with the music industry machine in the last year. Maybe he can put this behind him, start afresh and rebuild his confidence. There are hints of Dixon’s ability scattered throughout and, while it isn’t enough to make a truly captivating debut, it’s still intriguing nonetheless.