Wild Cub: Youth

When you mix the electro-theater of new wave with the organic sweetness of an indie folk collective, results may vary.

Wild Cub


Label: Mom + Pop
US Release Date: 2014-01-21
UK Release Date: 2014-01-21
Label website
Artist website

The press bio for Wild Cub begins with an epigraph from author Jonathan Lethem: "Teenage life -- possibly adult life too... is all about what you want and can't have. And then about what you receive and misuse." So begins the elaborately wrought, thematically sprawling description of the Nashville quintet led by Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock and their debut album, Youth. The album is at one point summarized as "a loose examination of how life refines us as we move through it." As the bio's grandiose declarations attest, singer/songwriter DeWitt is concerned with capturing the free-spirited, insouciant moments of that eponymous phase of life, and how those moments are recalled, years later, in the sweet, mellow haze of nostalgia.

Youth was originally self-released in January 2013, and lead single "Thunder Clatter" steadily gained radio play during the year. The album is now getting a wide release via Mom + Pop, featuring new tracks "Blacktide" and "Lies". But to be frank, this "deluxe" version is really just an excuse for re-releasing Youth after a year of increased clout and radio traction.

The opportunistic ploy, however, is not without good reason. "Thunder Clatter" is still the biggest draw on Wild Cub's debut album. It opens with a blooming, tropical fusillade of clapping, drums, and glittering percussion, swirling together in a racket of easy rapture. It's that rare type of song that seems to issue out of pure, spontaneous joy. Even the guitar bridge, which might otherwise risk spoiling the track's succinct euphoria, escorts us flawlessly to the endearing coda: "I hear it call in the center of it all / You're the love of my life". It's that kind of charming emotional candor, wreathed in loose, jangly arrangements, that can give indiepop a flicker of transcendence, of unselfconscious musicianship. "Colour" is another album highlight, the guitar revving like a car engine in the summer night, and then moving into pretty, dexterous figures alongside DeWitt's aching earnestness.

The first third of Youth benefits from variability: the melodies and track progressions are all dramatically different, suggesting both authority over and independence from its '80s, synthpop, and indie rock influences. Unfortunately, as one delves deeper into Youth, this bold variance, which initially injects the music with a restless, shape-shifting charisma, calcifies into sparse, unadorned synth lines bereft of the dazzling structures that make the early tracks so successful. Soon every track seems to begin with those banal synths and DeWitt entering stage left in pseudo-hypnotic croons, channeling a more phlegmatic Bono or a less mesmerizingly vulnerable Brandon Flowers. In other instances, promising confections like "Jonti", with its funky lo-fi percussion and playful piano, are compromised or else outright bewildered by DeWitt's spoken-word, Beat poet affectations. Such muddling affinities are unnecessary, it turns out, because DeWitt can go from belting out sweet, halcyon choruses to draping himself in Wild Cub's jubilant-caravan rhythms with perfectly reasonable proficiency.

It's clear by the end of the album that Youth toggles between its influences a bit too haphazardly instead of consolidating them into a fresh, singular sound. Should we think of Wild Cub in the "Thunder Clatter" vein—a charmingly shambolic outfit with big tropical rhythms and post-irony sweetness, or are they more new wave revivalists, as synthesizer-and-serenade tracks "Drive" and "Windows" would indicate? While Youth boasts some inarguably catchy moments, particularly when the arrangements are myriad, the second half is too remote and ersatz, not quite living up to the early tracks' affectionate blur of winsome melodies, blithe grace notes, and ardent refrains.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.