I really knew almost nothing about Younghusband before I played Dissolver, out Friday on ATP Recordings. Well, I knew that Robert Hampson of Loop produced this album but that's about it.
One listen to the opener, "Waverly Street", had me hooked. The music of Younghusband is decidedly American in spots but it's the American indie of artists like Elliott Smith or Beulah, acts that owe an admitted debt to the Beatles and their peers from the United Kingdom of the past. So this Brit four-some is channeling a bunch of Yanks who were themselves channeling a bunch of Brits. Case in point: the utterly sublime "Heavy Expectations" comes in all Pavement-like but then coasts out on backing vocals that recall nothing so much as parts of side two of Abbey Road. And, yeah, I had to keep reminding myself that the guy behind "Arc-Light" was the producer on this. Maybe he was a secret George Martin fan all along?
The subtle chord changes of "She Lies Awake" recall early Let's Active, or even stuff from Richard Barone of The Bongos, while "Broken Girls" imagines a Roger Waters who'd hooked up with Paul McCartney back in the old days, the result being slightly trippy pop instead of the muso-wankery of The Wall.
If the first few cuts on Dissolver seem to be perfect representations of chamber rock, then "Blonde Blending" races forward on the back of the sort of indie that Grandaddy perfected. "Orange Flare" and "Better Times" are gentle numbers that recall bands like Big Star and Teenage Fanclub in spots, while "Misguided Light" sounds like nothing so much as the underrated Pernice Brothers. It's a great cut that pairs the sound of Joe Pernice up with some melodic lines that would have not sounded out of place on an early solo album from John Lennon.
Dissolver ends with the Pink Floyd-circa Obscured by Clouds-isms of "Only for You" and the nearly-epic title track which does indeed -- finally and slightly -- show a trace of the influence of the sort of near-shoegaze that producer Robert Hampson made in Loop. I'm not trying to say that these guys -- Euan Hinshelwood, Joe Chilton, Adam Beach, and Pete Baker -- are following in the footsteps of Hampson but, rather, that they can seemingly master more styles than just power-pop should they choose to go in another direction next time out.
Dissolver remains one of the most consistent releases of 2015 for me each time I play it. There's not a dud on the whole record and I remain surprised that I hadn't heard about these guys until this year, and that a band this good was not getting even more attention. There's some similarity between what Younghusband are doing here and what Ultimate Painting did on their 2 albums but the singular difference is that Ultimate Painting, as great as they are too, are only drawing upon a few influences. Younghusband, on the other hand, bring to their art a wider range of inspirations. This is music that looks to the past while remaining wholly original and of the moment. Decidedly confident musicians, Younghusband have made one of the best records of 2015. I urge you to get on board with Dissolver now. Fans of Beulah, John Lennon, Big Star, Elliott Smith, Teenage Fanclub, and the Pernice Brothers will be very happy with this Younghusband record.