It's been two years since the release of the debut LP from Brit duo Young Romance, but believe me, the wait was worth it as Don't Look, out today via Banquet Records, is every bit as invigorating as Another's Blood. This new album from the London duo reveals a real progression of the group's sound, and an embrace of tunefulness that is a rarity in acts that straddle the shoegaze label.
Claire and Paolo have, frankly, upped their game here on Don't Look, with the music sounding more spacious and simultaneously more subtle. The opening one-two punch of "Alice" and "By My Side" suggests that these two have found a way to blend some obvious influences (JAMC, The Primitives) into something fresh, the seams no longer at all showing. If earlier releases revealed the influence of the most-played records in this pair's collections, stuff here on Don't Look is easier to love, oodles of natural charm evident all throughout this second full-length release. "Dark Of My Shadow" lets Claire sound like Kate Bush a bit, but the grinding hook is all Kevin Shields circa 1988, bits of feedback used almost like string passages here on this mid-tempo stunner. It is, quite simply, a ridiculously good pop single on an album full of them.
Some of the selections here ("Ramona") buzz wonderfully, but it's on other tracks here that a listener is surprised at how this lot's sound has advanced into new territory. The superb "Bruise Easy" shows faint signs of the bands of the C86 generation, but Claire and Paolo sound so in command here that one could never say that their music was just the product of some worthy influences. While "All I Know" and "Toughen Up" are near-ballads, shards of Siouxsie from the Juju years peeking through the riffs here, lots of Don't Look works best when Claire and Paolo jump in and sound a bit uninhibited. On many cuts on Don't Look, there's a ramshackle racket whirring around Claire's pristine voice, and that effect is a unique one, and it's the very key to the appeal of Young Romance. Well, that and the excellent buzzing hooks that are peppered all through the 10 tracks on Don't Look.
[Photos: Young Romance Facebook page]