[22 February 2004]
If the White Stripes were actually as bloody amazing as so many people think they are, they’d be the Like Young. Talk about just getting down and rocking out, the husband wife duo of Joe and Amanda Ziemba proves that you don’t have to be lousy with your simple guitar and drums (plus bass) hookup to be good. So move over Jack with your whiny voice and ripped off blues bullshit. Step aside, Meg, with your boring as hell repetitive drum patterns that barely hold together. The Like Young are here and thoroughly burn and blister every album you’ve wasted our time on with one recording: the glorious Art Contest.
The Like Young are another Chicago group, but unlike so many other Chicago groups noodling with math rock sounds these days, this duo cuts straight to the chase with sweet hooks and bristling melodies in a collection of 11 perfect songs, one of which barely crosses the three-minute mark. No pretenses, no promises to be the next big thing and save everyone with their sound. The Like Young simply are, and in that respect they have saved a lot of people the trouble of wasting time on bigger, less deserving bands by just sticking to what makes great pop music great: true simplicity.
It’s what those hipster moron groups up in New York are continually clueless about. Forget the image already, guys—just play the damn music honestly. But looking like you haven’t bathed in five days and cranking out dirty guitar chords is the taste of the day, if not the year. The Like Young ditch this pathetic aesthetic and just play their songs—brilliantly, I might add. This shit is tight and you’ll be humming the likes of “Expensive Tastes” and “Even If It’s Getting Late” the second after each is over.
Listen to the way the opening chords of “Nice People” strut around in a Rolling Stones fashion before giving way to the Like Young’s very own fresh sound. This is exactly what so many of those more popular and fashionable groups fail to do: bring their own rock. It’s just not going to matter a year from now how much garage worship you did by emulating your heroes. Those favorite current hits are going to sound stale two weeks down the line. However, the Like Young hook you with the notion that they’re going to play that same trick and then completely destroy you with their own style. Beautiful, really.
And let’s not forget that this duo doesn’t skimp on talent or singing ability. When I first heard Meg White warble on her track on Elephant, I just wanted to tear my ears off. Amanda Ziemba, on the other hand, has a sweet, high voice that shares equal space with Joe’s right-on-target singing. She’s not “just” the novelty portion of the band. The girl can fucking rock. And Joe, well, he gets the job done as well. Listen to both of them shred the paint off the old radiators with tracks like “Snobs and Slobs” and “Looked Up”. You’ll be back for more.
Perhaps the whole Like Young philosophy is best summed up in their song “I’m Old Fashioned”: “I don’t care if there is no one who agrees with the way that I may think / I like it outside when it’s early / I like the air clean at night when we’re all alone / I’m so devoted to you, you snap me out of it”, sing the Ziembas to each other. And that’s perfect. One gets the sense that they truly are making this music for each other and if everyone else wants to join in, that’s even better. That’s true garage for you, without even sounding like it.
Art Contest is a brilliant, beautiful album that no one should be without. It clocks in at under 25 minutes and is perfectly perfect. Sometimes the best albums are the ones that get in, get the job done, and then exit as fast as they came, giving you enough time to let you catch your breath and play them all over again. This album is just like that. The Like Young are truly one of the best groups that the entire US of A has to offer. Here’s looking forward to more great music from this genuinely honest band.