Is romantic rock ‘n’ roll possible anymore? Sometimes it can feel as if everything has been washed away, and all that’s left to anticipate are new cold electronic frontiers, self-referential pop songs and the next Kendrick Lamar record.
This fractured context only makes Gang of Youths’ Go Farther in Lightness all the more of an achievement in overcoming the second album blues. Let alone them being dedicated to the narrative art of making an entire album that works as a listening experience.
The band has grown in purpose and confidence, sweeping in with something that makes them feel like the next U2, epic but not blustery, and deeply poetic into the bargain with typically fine lyrics from singer Dave Le’aupepe. His chest-bursting baritone reeks of smoke and feeling, every word convincing as well as carefully placed. Seemingly predictable song structures have a way of changing gear unexpectedly, with horns, violin, and stepped-up pacing, the mood shifting and deepening.
The parallels seem obvious, even old-fashioned – U2, Springsteen, the faintest hint of Tom Waits and dark new classicists like The National – but Gang of Youths match their own name, bringing vitality and some kind of faith that makes the whole listening experience a soaring and restorative blast.
Go Farther in Lightness is nothing less than one of the great rock ‘n’ roll records of the year. Sometimes conviction is a form of genius all its own. As Le’aupepe advises, “Do not let your spirit wane.”