It's been years since I've been writing about this London duo. In fact, I first heard "Pale" by Young Romance in early 2014, when I was still living in Hong Kong. That seems so long ago but the wait was worth it as the band's debut long-player, Another's Blood, out today via Banquet Records, is a set of brash and joyous tunes, each wrapped around a great big hook. Guitar music has rarely sounded so exuberant in this century.
Of course early singles "Pale" and "Wasting Time" are here, the former in a slightly reworked version similar to what Childhood did with "Blue Velvet" when it showed up in a mildly different form on their long-awaited debut album. And, like that tune by that other U.K. band, "Pale" remains a glorious bit of business in any form. "Cracks" is more gentle, Claire's vocals sounding even more Kate Bush-like than they usually do, to borrow an idea from other reviewers. "Disappear" is crunchier and more dangerous still, while the rollicking "Pulling at the Grey" is the revved-up big beat indie of early Jesus and Mary Chain releases with more pop sense. "Never Learn", another previously-released number dressed up here, is similarly a bracing bit of indie, Black Tambourine and Lush reshaped for the 21st century. "Wild" slows things down a bit even as it provides a fine showcase for Claire's amazing vocals, while "Room to Breathe" recalls stuff like "Insects" by Altered Images, another band whose sound was anchored by such a striking and commanding female vocalist. Another's Blood closes on "Cold", a piano ballad that nods in the direction of post-punk pioneers like The Cure pre-indie-pop stardom, or Joy Division on Closer-era single sides.
Claire and Paolo have produced something here on Another's Blood that is admirable. It would have been far too easy to descend into near-shoegaze riff-making. And, make no mistake, there are a few intermittent moments here that will allow some critics to say that this band is part of a new wave of shoegaze practitioners. To these ears at least, Young Romance are creating indie-pop far closer to those first few Jesus and Mary Chain sides, or the best singles from The Primitives, than anything that would sound at home on a mix-tape next to Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. Above all, the search for strong and potent melodies is what guides the success of Another's Blood, not an empty pursuit of feedback-for-feedback's-sake. This duo has served up this debut album as a sort of spin on the templates laid down by the earlier C86 generation, or those crafted by the scores of bands who signed to Slumberland Records a few decades ago. Yes, shoegaze fans might gravitate to this but the charms of Another's Blood are those of big pop, Dusty and Gene Pitney and Lesley Gore hooks dressed up in a new century's fuzzy guitar-and-drum theatrics. Superb throughout, as far as I'm concerned.
[Photos: Young Romance Facebook page]