Young Rebel Set: Crocodile

This is the kind of record that gives rise to lots of associations -- intentional, unintentional, whatever -- and while for some bands that kind of provocational association can be a good thing, it is bad news for Young Rebel Set.

Young Rebel Set


Label: Ignition
US Release Date: Import
UK Release Date: 2013-09-30

It’s unfortunate, really, that there’s another band out there with two pairs of brothers and a sophomore album named for a large reptile. That said, they couldn’t really have seen that one coming -- not being able to follow my particularly random train of thought that ended with: Hey! That sounds like The National! Normally, comparisons to The National’s Alligator would be welcome...except, in this case, not only does Young Rebel Set sound nothing like Matt Berninger et al, but just thinking about The National in comparison to Young Rebel Set makes me want to sit down, close my eyes, and pound my brain with "Mistaken for Strangers".

It’s equally unfortunate that, at times, lead singer Matty Chipchase does a weirdly perfect imitation of Marcus Mumford. Though a comparison to Mumford & Sons is, at least on the critical totem pole, somewhat less esteemed than one to The National, I can assure you that there are moments on Crocodile would any sane person running back into Babel’s welcoming arms.

My somewhat meandering point here is that, firstly, this is the kind of record that gives rise to lots of associations -- intentional, unintentional, whatever -- and while for some bands that kind of provocational association can be a good thing, it is bad news for Young Rebel Set. The reason, you ask? Well, quite frankly, it’s because this band can’t live up to any of them.

For a better, more accurate associative example, take the band's eager embrace of '90s Britpop (as I've read, they even have the same management as Oasis) -- especially on tracks like "The Lash of the Whip" and "Berlin Nights". And even though the reference is purposeful, they end up sounding more like awkward admirers knocking politely on the door of the Gallagher mansion than musicians in their own right. Noah could write a big hook paired to lyrical nonsense, but, boy, could little brother Liam snarl and swagger his way through it. Matty Chipchase et al have the lyrical nonsense down pat, but they struggle mightily with the snarling and swaggering.

Listen closer to Crocodile and you’ll hear the Beatles, Billy Bragg, and even a few strains of Eric Burdon and the Animals fade in and out, and none of it does Young Rebel Set any favors. Comparing themselves (if somewhat inadvertently) with the greats of British rock, Young Rebel Set comes off as rather underwhelming. That sounds awfully mean, which isn’t quite how I intend it. The truth is that when one gets bogged down by the comparisons, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Crocodile is not without its charms.

"Tuned Transmission", for instance, has a bouncy, brilliant chorus; the very nearly paired tracks "Show Your Feathers & Run" and "The Girl From the 51" showcase an impressive grasp of dramatic tension; and there are little elements throughout the record that almost transcend the general ho-hum-ness of the tunes in which they are buried. (Listen for those carnival-esque keyboards in "Reap the Whirlwind"!)

But for every potentially redemptive moment, there is an equally distressing one that tilts the scale back towards mediocrity. The worst part on the entire album might be the first two lines of "One Law", where Chipchase intones: "You said this mountain was too high to climb / But I say this mountain’s no master of mine". Even Mumford, in his giddiest moments, never sounds that unworldly. But it gets worse in the chorus when Chipchase goes out on a limb to claim: "One law for everything / One law for everyone / Now see the world around you changing". In summary: The limb sags, then snaps, and you’ll be tempted to switch the song you feel such acute embarrassment for him. No Schadenfreude here.

The only holdover from the band’s debut album, Curse Our Love, which took its Billy Bragg influences to a loony level of idolatry, is the track "Unforgiven", which, I have to say, almost works with its rough-and-ready studio treatment. And there, by the way, is the major accomplishment of the album -- the sound of it all. If there’s something I hate about bands with some potential, it’s when they drape their albums in production that makes every track sound exactly the same.

In the studio, the band wises up to that potential folly and takes some safe but rewarding risks. It also helps that the band is big -- Chipchase plus the brothers Evans (Mark and Luke) and Parmley (Andrew and Chris), with Paddy Jordan and David Coombe to boot -- so the fullness of their sound isn’t all a studio creation. And while calling the production of "Berlin Nights" innovative is a stretch, it’s still eons more interesting than almost everything on their first album, which sounds shambolic by comparison.

All in all, the things that work on Crocodile get them about halfway there. It’s a long way to the top, guys - better not ignore that mountain.




Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.