On the surface, there’s nothing particularly special about The Gospel Youth. They look like four normal dudes from the South Coast of England, because that’s exactly what they are. There’s no real big, superstar personality in the band. But holy fucking shit, they write songs that mean something.
Across this rich, emotional 10-track debut, they wear vulnerability, flaws, imperfections and anxiety on their sleeves. At times, it’s truly stunning.
Opening track ‘I Will Deliver You To The Fireflies’ crashes in with flowing piano and howling vocals, while follow-up ‘Gin & Black Coffee’ combines the theatre of mid-’00s emo with the smarts of the radio-rock revolution that arrived towards the end of that decade – to tear-jerking effect.
They’re disarmingly normal, but have spent time honing their craft – producing and releasing a song every month through the whole of 2016 – and with prolific producer Romesh Dodangoda on board, this record is lithe, polished, and (with the exception of a brief mid-album dip in tempo) enthralling. Though it’s by no means an easy listen.
The aforementioned ‘Gin & Black Coffee’ deals with being twentysomething and wasted, while the chorus of ‘Wildfire’ – “I am anxious, I am scared, I am anything but well prepared” – will hit uncomfortably close to home for many. This is about life throwing you ups and downs, then adding a few more downs in there for good measure. And then The Gospel Youth, you and whoever else hears this album taking them, struggling with them, but making it through however possible.
Watch the video for 'Moods Like English Weather' below.
All of this wouldn’t work half as well without the perfect voice to back it up, so it’s a good thing all of this emotion and turmoil is propped up by frontman Sam Little’s soulful, powerful voice. He echoes Brendon Urie on the occasional Panic! At The Disco-esque breakdown, while his croon makes ‘Your Love Was A Cancer’ – a truly vicious song about never wanting to see someone again – sound positively welcoming.
The album art for ‘Always Lose’ sums it all up, really. It’s a hand holding an umbrella, but it’s raining inside the umbrella and the umbrella is also on fire. We’ve all been there. Everything is going wrong, basically, and that comes across loud and clear through songs like ‘Moods Like English Weather’.
They’re claustrophobic, almost relentlessly downbeat, but endearing all the same, to the extent that if in future a song starts playing and you hear yourself saying, ‘Ah man, this one messes me up,’ chances are it’ll be something from this album. The turbulent, slightly-out-of-control ‘Bloodlines Love Stopped Me Coming Home’ caps things appropriately enough with a determined, exposed declaration that “I am trying to get better all the time”, turning darkness into beauty.
Yes, this record contains some truly great songs, but more importantly than that, it boasts the very thing that’s missing from so much contemporary music – emotion. This album has it by the burning umbrella-load, and that’s why ‘Always Lose’ is one of the British rock debuts of the decade.