Sometimes, such expectations can leave you feeling flat when you finally listen to the record, simply because it’s not as good as you’ve built it up to be. Fortunately, there’s no such problems with ‘Empires’, which may only be 5 songs long, but more than justifies the hype.
The beauty of ‘Empires’ can be found in its simplicity. The Gospel Youth aren’t re-writing the rule book – indeed, there’s plenty of nods to pop-rock heroes Deaf Havana and Kids In Glass Houses – yet there’s a confidence and ability that makes you sit up and take note. Empires is unashamedly accessible, but it’s so well-written and constructed, it makes you really appreciate the art and craft that goes into penning a bloody brilliant chorus.
Opener ‘Stay Positive’ sets the tone perfectly. The drums and guitars are urgent and driving, the vocals suitably pleading. It’s far from original but it’s a genuine, passionate slice of pop-rock. It’s a real earworm too – you’ll be humming it for days and, when you’re currency is hooks and melodies that ability is like hitting the jackpot. ‘Homesick’ is even better though; it certainly doesn’t feel nearly four-and-a-half minutes long as it hits a gallop and doesn’t stop. It’s the sort of song that belongs on road-trip playlists. Lyrically, it retains the sincerity of ‘Stay Positive’, yet showcases the band’s depth and diversity.
Indeed, depth and diversity permeates ‘Empires’. ’Lighting Fires’ mixes things up again, including some great – and unexpected – gang vocals. It’s more of a slow burner than the opening salvo, but no less fantastic. The obligatory knockout chorus remains in place, proving they’re no one (or two) trick pony. The ballad, ‘If She’s The Rope’, is probably the weakest of the 5 songs. It’s a welcome change of pace, and is gorgeously written and expertly played, yet lacks the required emotional punch. Instead, I want them to get back to what they do best – which they duly do on the closing title track. It reminds me a lot of Fall Out Boy circa ‘Take This To Your Grave’, but considering that’s an album choc-full with massive, dancefloor-filling anthems, I’d say that’s no bad thing.
Overall, it means ‘Empires’ is a real statement of intent. It’s every bit as good as you hoped – and when a band is getting hyped from all directions, that’s a difficult feat to achieve. Now, with 2 EPs under their belts, let’s see if they can repeat the trick on a full-length. No pressure boys…
’Empires’ by The Gospel Youth is out now on Speaking Tongues.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)