There was a time where I would reject everything that I considered a side project. In my young, dumb, and narrow mind, there could only be one true outlet for an artist’s work, and whatever got passed around to the other projects were leftovers. None More Black, ironically was one of my favorite bands, and as strict minds do, I ignored my own hypocrisy by never getting into Kid Dynamite. I know longer hold those weird standards with music, thankfully—I know people can grow and change and what they want when they’re twenty isn’t going to be what they want when they’re thirty and so on and so forth. So, when I heard None More Black singer Jason Shevchuk had a new band and a new album, I didn’t balk—I just thought to myself: I wonder where Jason’s at these days.
Former Member has that same distinctive sense of melody, those same gravel-coated vocal cords. It’s stripped down and methodical; a melodic punk two-piece. Shevchuk handles guitar and vocals while producer-extraordinaire Will Yip plays drums. This is a true supergroup of punk rock talents, an intimate marriage of two people who love making music. But funny enough, the fact that this is a closed circle, with only two members, makes the band all the more respectable. This doesn’t sound like two scene vets cashing in on their respective credibility. Old Youth has enough great songs and personality to earn its renown on its own.
“Cold Open” has one of the best melodies I’ve heard in a long time, enough that it’s almost always bouncing off the insides of my skull. It’s mid-tempo, gruff, and beautiful; the sounds of punks growing up and growing into what they’ve learned along the way. In this case—songwriting. Shevchuk shows us he’s still got it, and he may not have even reached his peak yet. And there’s not just strong melodies, but there’s a lot of them. The song pushes into new territory effortlessly, with melody building on top of melody, with support and counterpoint from Shevchuk’s own guitar.
Old Youth actually has a diversity of sounds on it. “Double Scoop of Trouble (Looking for a Cone)” is a sort of bluesy hard rock song that reminds me of something straight out of the ZZ Top catalog. As the song progresses though, it takes on a more punk identity, especially with its chorus. “Root Notes” is another highlight, instantly arresting with its big catchy hook—bridging the gap between gospel and melodic punk. “What fools we are, doesn’t matter how cool we are,” is sure to be one of the most singable lines of the year.
“Goat of Dover” ends the album, at times both bouncy and melancholy. It’s a great way to sum up what we’ve seen in the past from None More Black, Kid Dynamite, and LaGrecia and now with Former Member, we see the sensibility carried into the present and hopefully the future. Old Youth is a collection of songs that prove that punk doesn’t have to burn out or fade away.