Love is Chemicals – Song of the Summer Youth Brigade

Love is Chemicals
Song of the Summer Youth Brigade

Right now, independent music is ripe with young bands raised on DIY legends like Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Built to Spill. Love is Chemicals is one of those young bands, and their second LP, Song of the Summer Youth Brigade, makes that abundantly clear.

All bands channel their influences. Some bands do it more than others. But too much channeling can leave a new band without an identity of it’s own. Originality comes from innovation. Where Song of the Summer Youth Brigade lacks innovation, it makes up for with faithful treatments of early indie rock aesthetics, showing admirable loyalty to its influences.

Love is Chemicals may cite Pavement, Built to Spill, and Sonic Youth as references, but much of their sound hearkens Citizens Here and Abroad and Death Cab for Cutie. Songs speak to pop, and often relay DCFC’s penchant for melancholy. Love is Chemicals’ guitarist and vocalist Nate Grover even approaches Ben Gibbard’s melodically mousy delivery.

Song of the Summer Youth Brigade is 13 tracks of straight ahead, hook-laden indie pop rock. Dispirited but friendly songs gather endurance from moments of sundry, relaxed enthusiasm. Two guitars dole out complimentary lines and chords, mingling short figures and building dynamics in volume, pitch, and frequency. Adept bass playing fits the different song styles and drums compliment from the back of the sound mix.

Song of the Summer Youth Brigade has lots of highlights. Track 3, “Over Land and Sea”, is an early one featuring complimentary guitar parts and a performance reminiscent of Citizens Here and Abroad. This track drives tentatively around a stabilizing and effective piano-guitar figure. Poppy track 5, “Love Machines”, bounces along to a Brit pop influence. Here, the vocals work especially well with the lyrical chorus lead-in, “And when we close our eyes, and when another circuit dies / a new sensation begins to rise / slowly through your body”.

The album’s best moments come in the second half, starting with track 7, “My Ticker Tape Parade”. Here, the melancholy vocal sounds great against floating guitar lines and the frittering tease of the snare drum: “Now all my friends are late, and now I can hardly wait / for my ticker tape parade to come rolling by”. Next track, “Travis the Cop”, kicks off with a straight beat and head nodding bass line. As the song progresses, the mood lifts casually. This track just has good lyrics, interesting guitar interplay, and thoughtful development.

“Larger on the Screen” is another pop gem, with perhaps the album’s most dynamic vocal delivery. Unfortunately, the vocals usually inhibit the album’s strengths. Grover sings in key, but he can make a multi-dimensional song sound static. Listeners may struggle to find anything endearing about him, as his timbre lacks character and offers little to remember.

A late album highlight comes at track 11, “Light from the Distant Shores”. This slow burner lingers over a long night’s end, communicating moods with its nontraditional song form.

For all Song of the Summer Youth Brigade‘s strengths, it should still be better than it is. The record is harmless, and frequently its shimmering sonics are only tinsel thin and too easily forgotten. The problem is a lack of substance and, to some extent, originality.

Perhaps too dependent on their influences, Love is Chemicals have yet to assert themselves. And unfortunately, listening to Song of the Summer Youth Brigade may only remind listeners of how much they like older bands. Nevertheless, the album is definitely worth a listen for indie fans.