Released on 12th March 2012

Reviewed by Becky Glass

Young Astronaut started as the project of two brothers, Chris and Pete Boakes, back in the halcyon days of 2007. Over four years working in their uni holidays they developed 10 songs, later attracting a drummer, Niko Battistini, and their bassist Paul Meeson. With some big names (which of course are totally unfamiliar to me) thrown in for production and mixing, they’ve brought out a debut album that’s downloadable for free.
It was in full knowledge of this scintillating life story that I listened to the album,, on Soundcloud. But rather than 10 fully-formed tracks distilled over years of self-analysis, what struck me about these songs was their jarring immaturity.
Their lyrics are annoyingly contrived, to the point where you can all but see the pages in the diaries from which they’ve been taken. ‘Lonely, lonely, dreams go to die… in the foothills of time’ – these sort of lines sound exactly like my own attempts at self-expression, age 13: overblown, grandiose, hollow statements about the meaning of life (admittedly with less obsessing over a boy called Tom Pinnock).
The one place the lyrics seemed to communicate authentic feeling was during ‘Shadows’, a song whose Bends-era Radiohead influence can’t be over-exaggerated. Throughout the rest of the album, the writers consciously steer away from the personal, tackling life’s big questions through a series of embarrassing metaphors (‘we’re liars, beggars, thieves, till your cards reveal your destiny’). The idea that they’ve consciously decided to be the sort of band that does this – ‘a band with a difference’ – is irritating to say the least.
The first time I physically winced, however, was at the abrupt change of tempo in Triumph – a moment that repeated itself in most of the other songs. I believe this is what the band’s press release refers to as ‘their harmonious and considered blend of music… the foundation of the bands [sic] delicate tonality’. It is not. It’s more akin to a musical interpretation of the Wikipedia page for ‘indie music’. They’ve thrown a bit of everything in; their result is a mechanical, awkward, pointless musical sycophancy.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and Sugar Is Sweeter Than Gold is one of them. The unified style here recalls the gentler moments of Dry The River, Stornoway and – dare I say it – Mumford and Sons. But the lyrics really take their toll on this song, with vocalist Chris singing ‘with our pockets full of joy, we are the princes of all the boys’; none of it convincing anyone that it’s anything more than nonsense. (See my diary, November 3rd, age 14.)
Lest I be seen as unkind or unfairly reductive, let me say that there are glimmers of brilliance here – in fact Fawn is all the more frustrating for them. Triumph very nearly a hugely likeable song, but over-thinking has pushed it into being formulaic. However, it is clear that the immaturities that limit the songs now will disappear in time. There is a path to greatness for Young Astronaut – but to get on it, they’re going to have to stop trying so hard to be there already.
Fawn is available to download for free from the band’s website.

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