How do you write the follow-up to an album that was full of songs about your ex-wife’s battle with cancer and your own personal struggles with drugs and mental health?
How does one take into account a debut album that is so beautifully crafted, recorded and performed, as was the case with last year’s The Positions, and not feel any pressures when it came to thinking about putting out new music?
It must have been these questions that tortured Gang Of Youths front-man and song chieftain Dave Le’aupepe, and to counter it, he seems to have followed an age-old axiom:
“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”
The bands brand new EP Let Me Be Clear is a sort of epilogue to The Positions, with Dave noting that “It’s a collection of songs…serving as a bookend of sorts to my early 20s, and the final chapter to the part of my life I spent in love with someone fighting cancer.”
The same raw emotion heard on that first album returns instantly here, with the opening lines of The Good Fight evoking memories of the heartbreaking ballad White Knuckles Dry.
True to the GOY handbook, the song introduces a dynamic pallet of sounds and colours, with strings, acoustic guitars and percussion gently swelling below the tender lines of Dave, climbing ever so slowly towards the heavens. It takes awhile, and threatens to peter out, but gloriously explodes at the end, with Dave singing incredibly fast over the cacophony beneath him in a nod towards the world of slam poetry.
What The Good Fight promises the rest of the album delivers. Native Tounge wastes no time kicking into gear, with guitarist Joji Malani combining with keys player Jung Kim to keep the song at a steady pulse before allowing it to build to the stadium-sized sing along of “I’ll say fuck you and I’ll tell myself.”
Let Me Be Clear has no shortage of crowd pleasing moments, with the bands previously released single Strange Diseases further reminding listeners why GOY are the perfect fit for any festival.
Gang Of Youths know how to build a track too. A Sudden Light begins with glitchy synths, glittery acoustic guitars and airy harmonies before settling into a vast groove led by a booming tom march. From there the song develops into a syncopated jam filled with trumpets, strings and layer upon layer of vocal harmony.
The sheer amount of musical influence the band have is also apparent. Soft bongos and acoustics carry the first half of Still Unbeaten Life, with Dave’s brutally honest lyrics capturing a true moment of creative beauty: “Stark in my naked pose, with your arms upon my sides, lend to me your frame tonight.” A flurry of harps, strings and synths later and the song begins to purposely march towards its triumphant end.
A cover of Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell sees out the EP, with Dave and his guitar strumming listeners softly to sleep. After the bombastic content of the previous five tracks, it’s the perfect way to end a whirlwind musical journey.
Let Me Be Clear is everything a Gang Of Youths hopeful could want. It shows that the band have lost absolutely none of their creative flare, maintained their broad range of influences and are developing their sound at an exciting pace. These tracks are going to blow your mind in the live arena, and now is the best time to get used to hearing them.