Youth Group: Skeleton Jar

Youth Group
Skeleton Jar
(Epitaph)

For those of us with memories stretching back further than Modest Mouse, the term “indie” conjures up independent labels, many with wonderfully diverse artist rosters. The Smiths and Scritti Politti on the same label? It happened! Flash forward to the present day, though, and the term has a somewhat reductive feel and narrow frame of reference. That Australia’s Youth Group adds some early James (Stutter and Stripmine era) into the usual mix is a refreshing change, but beyond that we’re left with more worried boys with guitars and a Death Cab record.

If this record were terrible I’d definitely warm to it more, but instead it’s just another competently executed, well-recorded, by-the-book “indie” rock record. The stronger songs such as “Shadowland,” “Drowned” and “Someone Else’s Dream,” taken individually, are pleasant enough. But stretched over a full-length, the limited melodies and main man Toby Martins’ more annoying mannerisms begin to corrode the spirit.

Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla has been quoted as saying of Youth Group, “If you don’t love them, your heart is dead.” Well, Chris, I just checked and my heart is still very much alive, though I suspect that if it had to survive on this thin fare for too long, it would wither.