Youth Group | Casino Twilight Dogs (Epitaph)

cd_youth-groupWhile the (past and possibly present) prom-night power of "Forever Young" is what will most likely dominate the attentions of Casino Twilight Dogs, it is by no means the high point of the album.

 

 

 

 

 

I'd normally be really skeptical about a band whose name is primarily known, at least in America, for a version of someone else's song that was played during an episode of The O.C. With Youth Group, though, I'm glad that I didn't know this about the Aussie quartet until I reached track eight of Casino Twilight Dogs and went, "Is this that one song?" I had to look up the original band name, but it turned out that, yes, it was that one song, and that song was "Forever Young," originally made famous in the great year of my birth, 1984, by Alphaville.

As it turns out, Youth Group's version is quite pleasant, not as glossy as the original, and much like the rest of Casino Twilight Dogs, a soft-hearted approach to a song built on angst and passing concerns. With premises that seem brief, albeit focused, Toby Martin breezes through issues of idleness, empathy, and idealism, turning delicately droning guitar and simple construction into inoffensive, catchy pop-rock. This is the kind of album that grounds the pessimists, turns headaches into comforting reminders of humanity, and brings innocence to the table where rock 'n' roll executives come to feast and destroy.

There's a differently arranged track-listing for the American release of Casino Twilight Dogs (released in Australia in the summer of '06), yet Youth Group's tone is so consistent in its pacification that even Martin's dimmest imageries cannot disturb the album's ebb and flow. On "Catch and Kill" (formerly "Catching and Killing"), he laments the numbing, impersonality of modern technology, declaring that "Other parasites ripped on schedule you solitary man/ You sit at your territorial machine." However, a blissful, arching chorus belies this annoyance, a repeated theme throughout the album, but a necessary one in that it becomes so easy to align yourself with Martin's words. Even when he takes on the image of the band's name, expressing boyish love fancies on "Under the Underpass," his earnest approach to clichés allows the listener to care, if only for the length of a pop song.

While the (past and possibly present) prom-night power of "Forever Young" is what will most likely dominate the attentions of Casino Twilight Dogs, it is by no means the high point of the album. Instead, I would point to the pretty musings of "Start Today Tomorrow" and the backhanded coquettishness of "Sorry," both pleasing and memorable in their own right. There's nothing risky or particularly inventive about the music itself, but Youth Group does what they do well, and that is to craft heartfelt, upbeat ballads with the occasional sobering caveat.

If 2006 is any hint, a year in which the band opened for Death Cab for Cutie and had their first tastes of major recognition, both at home and overseas, Youth Group will continue to nestle harmlessly in the corner of impressionable hearts and guilty-pleasure playlists. My advice: Don't feel guilty. B | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: Teenage Fanclub, Death Cab for Cutie, Matthew Sweet

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