With a name like Young Hines, you’re practically destined to be a songwriter. It rolls right off the tongue. Luckily for Young Hines, he was indeed blessed with some musical talent, even if he’s been a bit delayed in getting his name to the fore; although informal and self-released recordings have been leaking out from Hines for a decade, Give Me My Change is his first proper solo album.
Unfortunately, although Hines can carry a tune and maybe even write one, Change just doesn’t add up. For one thing, it’s about ten years too late, recalling the likes of The White Stripes, Spoon, and The Libertines. All good bands, but they’ve had plenty of imitators, and even the best bands to follow suit offer little more than vivid illustrations of how quickly a style of music can get played out.
Young Hines is remarkably unremarkable, an average of averages, a distillation of generic mainstream rock in indie clothing. “Just Say No (Sometimes)” is little more than a T-Rex rip-off, and “Rainy Day” might as well be a poorly performed Big Star cover. Other obvious sources include such unoriginal influences as The Beatles and David Bowie. In other words, Young Hines sounds exactly like everyone else. It would take spectacular songwriting talent to make this style interesting in 2012, and unfortunately, there’s not much evidence of that here.
What bums me out the most about this album, however, is that it’s not, strictly speaking, bad. There are some pleasant songs, and Hines’s talent (limited talent, but talent nonetheless) is evident. If this record were terrible, it would at least make an impression. Instead, it reminds me of a sign I once saw when traveling, which read “Decent Restaurant” and sported an arrow pointing down an alley. Decent is better than terrible, but we decided to take our chances at the place across the road, and I’d recommend you do the same—better to take a chance with your money and time than spend it on this record.
At its best, the album turns to gritty, minimal blues. Jack White did it first and did it better, but “No One Knows” is still a satisfying listen. The other highlights come when Hines’s singing (rather than his songwriting) comes to the fore. It’s Hines’s voice that makes the bare-bones blues of “Young Again” so compelling. In a different tone but in the same vein, the acoustic “Lost in the Mix” shines in its simplicity. On the other end of the spectrum, the heavy rocking “Can’t Explode” seethes in enjoyable aggression.
At its worst, Change features melodies that can only be described as remedial. The annoying to-and-fro tune of “Don’t Break My Fall” ranks among the worst. Likewise, the highly produced “I Ask This of You”, clearly meant to be a bold experiment, sounds like some sort of terrifying artistic vampire sucked every last drop of creativity from it before it arrived at our speakers. Meanwhile, the nauseatingly cheesy “Better Things” should inspire a cringe.
It feels low, ripping a guy a new one who was only following the destiny of his name, especially when he isn’t terrible at all. But me, I’d rather hear something awful than something that’s just so-so. Whatever it was trying to accomplish, this album is too safe. Change is guaranteed not to offend, and not to inspire, a soul.