EP Review – Blue Youth

Summer is waking up. As the days stretch longer, one by one the windows of my hundred-year-old house in cathedral are opened up, bleeding out the static of another prairie winter and breathing in the rustling soul of a city that spends most of her life holed up in bed. As the winds change seasons, they bring with them new music. Every autumn I lapse into layers of music with dreary drones and slowly stirring textures to mirror the melancholy, Sinclair-Ross-style stagnation of a Saskatchewan winter. Though it always seems impossible,  I make it through the other side and my music discovery shifts. Spring is the time for flower picking — each flower a new artist, single, or album, to add to the bouquet I’ll carry all summer long. Until September, when they wilt and I find myself back at the start.

Lately, it has felt difficult to find appropriate summer music. A healthy dose of sugary pop and dusty surf rock covers most of my bases. But it’s so damn hot. The sweat of a world pleading against the push and pull of a vindictive sun hangs in the airs for days. Then the rain comes and I love the prairies once again. So what is our soundtrack for the oppressive heat of summer and the ensuing thunder storms? Look no further than Blue Youth.

Blue Youth, the latest effort to come out of Regina’s Grind Central Records, is the self-titled first release from a group of Queen City Punk veterans. Gage McGuire (Surf Dads, Bermuda Love), Garret Mathies (Geronimo), and Jon Wolfond (Coldest Night of the Year, Bermuda Love) have come together into a high energy post-punk trio that pull no punches. This five-song EP, recorded at Grind Central Station by Chris Dimas, is an essential part of your summer sound track.

The record opens with a bang. Or perhaps more accurately for a dog-themed blog, a howl. A wail of distorted guitar feedback greets you as you start the EP’s first track, “The Power.” That quickly bleeds into driving eight-note punk paired with McGuire’s charmingly boyish vocals. If you came for some grit and aggression, do not fear — McGuire’s vocals quickly pivot to a wonderfully harsh, shredding vocal tone that echos his hardcore roots. The interplay between sneering pop-punk singing and increasingly dirty, flat-out screaming is one of the things that makes this record so dynamic. It’s easy to play music that sounds pissed off or fed up and stays there, but music that finds new ways to do that song-to-song and even within a song is worth writing about.

The follow-up to the first track, “The Screw,” features deeper, heavier guitars, shape-shifting drum patterns, strategic drops, and guitar hooks that will be stuck in your head for days. This is followed by “The Enemy,” which opens with quintessentially snarly punk bass tone layered with spooky guitar sounds and features HEAVY choruses that end up deliciously pushing and pulling time feel. The EP closes with “The End,” a sneakily odd-metered and exciting exclamation point to the record, but the stand out track to me is the penultimate “The Past.” Hyper-charged, pseudo-disco grooves and creepily chromatic chord progressions and melodies provide the background and framework for a clinic in dirty vocals. McGuire pushes the limits of his voice in this song, and the guitar, bass, and drums, are there with him screaming in tandem. Until they drop out, occaisionally leaving McGuire alone to scream into the abyss. But who hasn’t done that on a lonely Saskatchewan summer night, right?

It is in the lyrics of these songs that I believe the band’s name rings most true. The lyrics as a whole project a mixed feeling of longing and frustration. This might be for a relationship gone sour like in “The Enemy,” or a time gone by like in “The Past.” There’s also plenty that simply sounds like someone’s about to get into a fight. But none of it exists outside the context of the province that Blue Youth calls home:

“Under the night sky is when I feel alive
With the Stars burning overhead
A slow wind leaves its trace upon my face
Burning skin, turning red”

– The Enemy, Blue Youth

Everything about the stories and sounds on this EP screams of daydreaming about one’s youth. To me that’s what summer is about. It’s not always margaritas and Kenny Loggins. A lot of the time it’s Bohemian and punk shows. Especially when you’re daydreaming about your Blue Youth.

In a weird way I find this music refreshing. Perhaps it’s because, as an adult transplant to the Queen City, I wasn’t privy in my youth to the punk and hardcore music scene that made this city great. Just now I’m left to pick up the pieces and bathe in the echos of a time past but not forgotten. It’s like my life as a member of the Regina music scene is that literary device where the author writes a character who like, just woke up from a coma or was invited into a new club or something so that the reader can learn everything alongside an oblivious character. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. New music is always exciting, and to me, so much that once was old is new. Blue Youth falls into both camps in some ways and it will surely be part of my summer soundtrack, Is it patio music to be played lightly behind chatter about the Roughriders at your aunt’s garden party? No. It is the soundtrack to sweat. To the streets of prairie cities and towns after dark. To sheets of rain punctuated by lighting and echoed by thunder. To youth and stupidity, which we all find at some point throughout the summer. Regardless of age.

Their first show is tomorrow night, June 9th at the Mercury. Crack a cold one for me with these boys.

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