Album Reviews

The Underground Youth – The Falling

(Fuzz Club) UK release date: 12 March 2021

The Underground Youth - The Falling Over the course of 10 albums, post-punk band The Underground Youth has slowly pulled focus on their blurry romantic sound. The waves of echo and reverb that formerly concealed frontman Craig Dyer’s pensive observations have been seared away and his eccentric baritone is now brought front and centre, making him the complicated protagonist of these bruised love songs.

Formed in his Manchester home as a solo project, his earnest songwriting grew him a loyal and sizeable fan base, and he recruited his wife Olya on drums, guitarist and producer Leo Kaage and bassist Max James to further flesh out his haunted visions. Stranded in Berlin, their current hometown, for months on end, the band have essentially disrobed their former sound, relying instead on harmonica, accordion, piano and acoustic guitars for these eight bludgeoning tragedies, recorded in Kaage’s home studio.

Addressing the darkness that follows him, the intoxicated antihero of The Falling longs to taste the “vicious liquid” that’s dominated his life and destroyed his home as he sings of angels and arrows that pierce his side. On the Bob Dylan facsimile Vergiss Mich Nicht (Don’t Forget Me) Dyer begs to be remembered, for his musical and personal moments, to be resurrected and not to have been in vain. Singing about bleeding tears and the Garden of Gethsemane, it’s a familiar tale of theological disintegration and suppressed egotism.

The transubstantiation of Robert Zimmerman is further observed on Egyptian Queen, with Dyer searching for his mythical soulmate, in the cadaverous swamp of his nightmares, ready to make a sacrifice. The hymn like reprises of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah undulate through the quietly decaying And I… And then on A Sorrowful Race, a bed bound figure drunk on jealousy laments the fatalist mechanisms of his own damned existence.

Aware that the litany of misery is not sustainable, the album concludes with three tracks that, whilst remaining lyrically stark, briefly rise up out of their maudlin shackles. For You Are The One has Dyer succumbing to his inherent carnality, as he confesses “Over your image undressed / I have long since obsessed / I would pray for you but / you are already blessed,” and the exuberant Cabinet Of Curiosity, featuring Magnus Westergaard from Danish neo-folksters Dune Messiah, is a prophetic inventory of mysterious objects. On the album’s epilogue Letter From A Young Lover, Dyer converses with a youthful iteration of himself. Referencing vintage rebels Faye Dunaway and Marlon Brando in the meditative lyrics, a spectral piano riff hacks through the symbolic quietness, valiantly signalling Dyers desire for composure in the face of corruption and degradation.

The violently romantic and corruptive influence of the church that courses through the Southern Gothic genre has long been a font of inspiration for musicians such as Bob Dylan, The Gun Club, 16 Horsepower and in particular Nick Cave, to whom Dyer is heavily indebted. In her evocative debut novel, 1952’s Wise Blood, Flannery Connor, who would go on to reign as the Queen of Southern Gothic, tells the sorrowful account of Hazel Motes, a serviceman returning from war, conflicted about his apparent lack of faith who descends into existential and religious lunacy after falling under the spell of a confidence trickster, eventually blinding himself and self-flagellating. Mrs Flood, his heartsick landlady, berates him upon discovering his thin body wrapped with barbed wire. She tells the would be martyr: “There’s no reason for it. People have quit doing it.” Motes, at his most pious, tells her: “People still doing it so long as I’m doing it.” Much like Motes, Craig Dyer seems to have taken comfort in torturing himself, but the immediate reaction as a listener is not repulsion, but revelation.

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