With members who can trace their roots to Iran, India, Britain andFrench Canada, California’s Young The Giant certainly have an exoticheritage to draw from, but sadly, that’s probably the most interestingthing about this perfectly listenable but ultimately unexceptionalband.
Founded in 2004 as The Jakes, it’s taken them over half adecade to finally release their first album, largely due to collegecommitments and personnel changes. With their current line-up in placeby 2009, they had an early track played on MTV’s The Real World:Brooklyn show and performed at the South by Southwestfestival before deciding to change their name to Young The Giant lastyear.
It’s not at all surprising that the group’s music has alreadyappeared on a cable TV show, as their eponymous debut is stuffed fullof the kind of pleasantly inoffensive fare that is invariably favouredby the type of producers who put together these kinds of seriessoundtracks. Guitars chime and twang away enthusiastically but withoutmuch imagination, the rhythm section ensures a driving, catchy beatand singer Sameer Gandhia hollers his formulaic lyrics wholeheartedly,occasionally backed by some typical West Coast harmonies from hiscohorts.
To be fair to Young The Giant, the album does kick off quitepromisingly. Apartment is an instantly infectious slice ofquintessentially American alternative rock which sounds like so manyother bands it’s hard to pinpoint one, but it’s nevertheless a solidopening. My Body is more urgent and driving, bringing to mind abizarre juxtaposition of Kings Of Leon and James’s early90s indie favourite Sit Down, while I Got’s shuffling beat and quirkytune could slot quite easily onto the UK’s once-hyped Athlete’shugely underrated Vehicles and Animals album. A strong initialquartet of songs is completed by Cough Syrup, another King OfLeon-influenced number which dates back to The Jakes’ 2008 EP Shake MyHand. So far, so good (ish).
Unfortunately, it’s generally downhill all the way thereafter, asit becomes rapidly apparent that Young The Giant have banged out alltheir best songs early on and rapidly run out of ideas. So instead ofcontinuing with the derivative but fun style of the first few tracks,it’s as if someone in the studio has panicked and flicked a switchlabelled ‘default Coldplay/U2 mode’ and the bandrobotically responds by churning out a succession of earnest,instantly forgettable widescreen guitar anthems, most of which blendinnocuously into one another without leaving any impression on thelistener whatsoever.
There are occasional moments where the malaise lifts – the liltingmelody of Strings is quietly affecting, and St Walker’s cleverwordplay (the song is actually about a prostitute) raises a wry smile.Overall though this is disappointingly bland stuff, and most of thealbum just drifts past in the background until it’s over. At 12tracks and 50 minutes, a little bit more pruning and quality controlmay well have helped, but the stark truth is that on the evidence hereYoung The Giant’s songwriting isn’t anything to write home about, andeven the stronger material is heavily indebted to the work of globallysuccessful artists who are not exactly short of imitators as it is.
On the plus side, the band are still in their early 20s and theirbetter tunes show enough promise to suggest they could improve if theyconcentrate on a poppier approach rather than pursuing stadium rockambitions. But at this stage of their career, young or not, they’redefinitely standing on the shoulders of giants rather than scalinggreat heights themselves.