Sons of Young are a band of ‘working class punks from Columbia, South Carolina.’ The three-piece band bill themselves as “the only band that matters…aside from The Clash.” Tongue is planted firmly in cheek, to be sure, but that is lofty self-praise even when being facetious. Their newest EP, the four-song “Are Not In Trend” (released June 16th) is proof that if Sons of Young were truly the only band that really mattered (other than the Clash), our standards aren’t particularly high.
“Most of Us Are Damned” opens the EP and starts off on a high note with a lead riff that evokes 70s classic rock (specifically Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic”). The rapid-fire cowbell sound of the breakdown section about 2/3rds of the way through the track shares many of the same 70s rock inspirations. Otherwise, the track is a fairly gritty, almost rockabilly sounding punk rock song. While not particularly well-polished, it has good bones and really isn’t a bad song. The fatal flaw is the frontman Travis Bland’s vocal stylings. More on that in a moment.
“Thrift Store Clothes” comes next and starts with a lead bass riff. This track sounds like more of an indie rock track than anything else. The post-chorus riff/breakdown is fairly rudimentarily written and performed, sounding like a high school-age band that is new to playing together and each trying to feel each other out. “Diggin’ Myself to Hell” follows, and has left me perplexed with each listen that I’ve given it. Musically, it is rough around the edges but a solid, guitar driven song, with muted power chords trading places with an understated, two-note riff through the verses. It’s pretty ‘gutter,’ and evokes a punk sound from twenty years ago. The problem I have with this track (and, I’ll be honest, every track on the EP), is Bland’s breathy, baritone warble, which sounds like Elvis-meets-Tom Waits (but not in a good way).
“Engines Of Men,” the album closer, has a very strong intro riff reminiscent of the legendary Skids track “Into the Valley” (later popularized by Street Dogs), but the vocals pretty much take the air out of the track’s tires before it is really able to get much momentum. The vocal-less interludes are actually quite good, and reflect the band’s ability to write quality material, albeit in more of a post-punk style (which is certainly okay by me).
When they stick to the “punk” stuff (distorted power chords, standard 4/4 drums), the music is actually pretty good. The vocals oscillate between sounding goofy and gimmicky and sounding just plain bad. How much of that is production quality and how much of that is schtick remain to be seen. The bright spots on the album are strong enough that they do lead the listener to wonder what potential the band might have were the vocals to be more straightforward. Truthfully, Sons of Young’s “Are Not In Trend” probably warrants a 2.5 star review, but we run on whole stars here at Dying Scene.