The Brazen Youth - Primitive Initiative

by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-08-17
The Brazen Youth - Primitive Initiative
The Brazen Youth - Primitive Initiative

Sporting the most appropriately descriptive band name since Bread, Lyme, Connecticut based The Brazen Youth certainly flirt with moments of shamelessness on their sophomore release, Primitive Initiative.  Formed by Nicholas Lussier and Charles Dahlke, the duo put out the cohesive The Ever Dying Bristlecone Man in 2016.  Now as a trio, joined by Micah Rubin, the group is a bit more all over the stylistic map on their latest release and with more members perhaps comes more brazenness.  Undoubtedly, the band has the songwriting chops and instrumental prowess to match, but here they come off a band seeking to find their sound and in places come perilously close to others.

Exhibit A comes right off the bat as the best Pinegrove song ostensibly not performed by Pinegrove.  Being one of my favorite bands over the past five years, when I heard the opening lines of ‘You Could Not Provoke Me To’ I was confident either I had somehow downloaded Pinegrove’s sadly unreleased second album or that self-exiled lead singer Evan Stephens Hall had been kidnapped and forced to sing against his will.  Apparently, neither is true and The Brazen Youth were just able to uncannily mimic the band with note-perfect dynamic tension and Hall’s powerful earnestness.  But to be fair, it’s an extremely well-done song and by the looks of it to be the best non-Pinegrove Pinegrove song we hear all year.  Maybe fittingly the song is walled off from the rest of the album by a snippet welcoming us to the “real” Primitive Initiative.  As if the band was showing what they could do before moving forward.  

The rest of the album plays out in uncoupled stylistic pairings of songs.  Just to get Exhibit B out of the way, there are two tracks where the band sounds just like the subset of Local Natives’ songs where sweeter voiced Kelcey Ayer takes the lead but with a couple of different variations.  ‘My Feet My Sun’ sounding like a Tame Impala tinged Local Natives and on ‘Figure in the Field’ the Natives sound like they get crossed up with Justin Vernon.  Once again, great songs but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery there could be thank you cards in the mail.  

But to let these up-and-comers off the hook, they don’t always wear their influences so openly on their sleeves.  With false starts and complex finishes, tracks like ‘Back of My Mind’ and ‘Death:Posed’ show a commitment to their craft.  The latter song quietly clicks along before tumbling into an inevitably higher gear towards its percussive finish.  The track takes a thing of beauty to greater heights as it goes.  Sticking with the pairings, ‘So Young Then’ and the latter half of ‘Burn Slowly I Love You’, have a much simpler mid-70s soft rock progression to them.  Lovely, cottony clouds.  For my money though, the band hits its stride here in the rusty but wound-tight springs of ‘Birds Inside My Attic’ and ‘Riverbeds’.  The former ambles along seemingly harmless but has a thread of dusty heat to it like the attic of the title.  Likewise, the simple piano chords at the open of ‘Riverbeds’ give way to mournful choruses and vocally driven power punctuated with Aaron Canter’s well-timed trumpet blast.  The half-hearted promise of “come on over, I might be sober this time” ups the thorniness quotient as well.  The band ends up their creative best on these seemingly simple mini-masterpieces.

With the album self-released and mixed/engineered by Dahlke, the sound quality is fully professional and the band undoubtedly has a full range of talent on display.  Whether it was Rubin’s addition or a conscious effort to branch out in multiple new directions, the band gets a bit lost on the way to the store.  But there is no harm in getting lost if you can generate songs of this quality and ultimately get to where you are going, even if there are a few waypoints in between.  They certainly deserve attention from an indie label at a minimum and the album is more than worth multiple listens.  Given more time for the pieces on display here to gel, I have no doubt they can put forth a fully developed sound of their own next time out.  The youth, as they say, are going to be alright.     

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