Neil Young People

Now here’s a nice surprise. After wasting $7.99 on a vinyl copy of Young People’s War Prayers, which was too much to pay for too much fledgling and not enough full-fledged (despite their show- stopping interpretation of that little girl’s song from Charles Laughton’s masterpiece noir Night of the Hunter), I happened to catch a listen to a few tracks from their new EP, Five Sunsets in Four Days, enough to make me purchase the whole shebang, for my slowlyDYingPod, at 5 bucks &change. I coaxed it in, over the ether, rather than buying another object to waste space in my apartment. I’m now unwillingly eager to hear their forthcoming full-length. I feel so used.

But I didn’t say I was gonna buy it. Yet. I still blame the Yung-Uns for War Prayers. I mean, here in NYC, $7.99’ll get you a danish and a coffee.

Oh, and why? Young People have always had the DNA for something special; but thus far their limitiations (which some twits confuse with charm) had made them disappointing. Vocalist Katie Eastburn sounded too much like Natalie Merchant — not in voice, but in affect and range-wise, meaning she had none. Althought the songwriting and unique instrumentation (Eastburn throws second percussion and violin & guitar into the bassless mix) would never lead to the smarmy folk rock of 10,000 Maniacs or anything played on KCRW, they sounded tentative instrumentally, and if what they intended to do was myth-make and creep-out and Be Artisitc, it was forced. There’s a fine line, and you know the one I’m talking about.

Maybe this new EP gets the production right, muddying guitars and lowering Eastburn in the mix, but I know a few things: now you hear the layers of percussion, now Eastburn attempts beautiful mistakes with her voice, now harmonica trades dissonant blasts with cheap guitar. Songwriting wise, they’ve been listening to Deerhoof. And now, here, they sound like PJ Harvey singing over Neil Young’s soundtrack for Dead Man. On “Hot Horse” they sound like Karen O fronting the Gun Club, as if they had a date with a scarecrow instead of a date with the night. Eastburn sings “bury me/out on the plain” just so you know she isn’t serenading Williamsburg. And that’s a good thing, because I’m tired of fashion victims. Faulkner could drink them under the table.

Young People – Hot Horse