The roots of Sydney’s Youth Group extend way back to this decade’s start. Their 2000 Urban and Eastern debut went out of print long before glowing praise was heaped on 2004’s Skeleton Jar. Toby Martin and Danny Allen’s band gained support slots with Death Cab for Cutie, and inevitable spurious attention over one of their new members. Complete with a Chris Walla mixed OC straddling cover, their second album for Anti-, Casino Twilight Dogs could be their international mainstream breakout.
Sonically, there’s little in common with bassist Patrick Matthews’ former band. Casino Twilight Dogs is a pointedly melodic indie rock record. Like Powderfinger’s Internationalist, it succeeds by keeping feet firmly on the ground amidst bombast. “Under the Underpass” takes victory in aimlessness and an imminent return to shelf stacking, in similar vein to Bernard Fanning. Martin’s vocals also have an added verve that’s pure Tim Booth. There’s also a weather beaten drive to the songs, worthy of the Wrens’ The Meadowlands. “Sicily” contemplates future happiness as though loneliness is a certainty, and the cigarette lighters are still called for.
There are several different templates on show. “Catching and Killing” swaggers like Ian Brown, while the sea sickness of “Daisy Chains” is pure Tim Freedman. Killingly, the protagonist asks “how could I finish what I couldn’t start?” and follows with a critical Napoleonic pun. “On A String” combines Abbey Road pop haze with Luke Steele menace. The doctors “couldn’t prescribe anything else from the medicine shelf.” Love is “such a creepy thing,” complete with poison pins. “Sorry” competes with Teenage Fanclub in the humanized Byrds stakes. It has an ELO flavour of joyfulness in simplicity. “Start Today Tomorrow” could be James Taylor humanizing “High and Dry.” The gloss immersed Alphaville cover passes by pleasantly. If it leads more people to hear the great accompaniment here, there’s justice in the world.
Powderfinger – Internationalist
The Wrens – The Meadowlands
The Whitlams – Eternal Nightcap
MP3: “Dead Zoo”