Take a Vacation!
By Alexandra Edwards
Plenty of musicians begin their careers making music in the indie world and later move on to major label deals and MTV exposure. But is it possible to follow that path in reverse?
That’s what Los Angeles band The Young Veins are trying to find out. The band consists of two former members of Panic! at the Disco, an MTV darling of a band if ever there was one. Three other, more anonymous, members round out the quintet, and they’ve just released their debut album, Take a Vacation!
The songs are uniformly short pop pieces in the garage rock mode. “Change,” the album opener, has a bluesy flavor, and the title track feels summery, with tinges of surf rock style. But singer Ryan Ross’ voice sits rather awkwardly over these songs. And though they are the lead singles from the album, they don’t work to set the band apart from the scores of other garage rock revivalists on the scene these days. They contain no great lyrical surprises, no exciting revelations of form or content. It’s all a little paint-by-the-numbers.
“Cape Town” is a more successful track, with its Phil Spector-esque wall of sound, ringing bells, and backing vocals. Unlike other bands working in this particular style (think Times New Viking or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart), The Young Veins eschew distorted vocals in favor of a more straightforward approach. It works well. The same goes for “Dangerous Blues,” though the abrupt ending leaves the song feeling unfinished and ultimately unsatisfying.
Taken separately, most of these songs are fluent in their genre stylings, unabashed about their influences, and generally enjoyable. But as a whole, the album lacks two key elements: hooks, strangely absent for such a pop-inflected work, and emotion, which almost never manages to surface above the drugged-out summer haze. With every moment on the same low-key level, there’s barely enough to keep the listener engaged. One tiny shred of vulnerability appears on “Defiance,” late in the album, but by then it’s too little, too late.
At work on Take a Vacation! is a formula which has practically become standard for new indie bands of the day: mix equal parts Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, and 60’s garage rock, stir gently and sprinkle with California sunlight. But with so many groups doing the same thing, how do you stand out? The Young Veins haven’t answered that question for themselves yet. Maybe on the next album.
The Young Veins play with Rooney on July 10.