As with most copies of copies, the quality degenerates with each generation. Kids these days indeed.
Where once guitars both acoustic and electric sought to convey the most earnest of sentiments, the frantic banjo has arrived to supplant these previous staples and denote the utmost level of profundity. Thanks to the elevated commercial profile of the likes of Mumford & Sons, "traditional” instruments have become de rigueur in certain sections of popular music. As with any commercial boom, there will be dozens if not hundreds of comparable acts that spring up in the wake of the initial flashes of success seeking to emulate the same.
Naturally, anything that comes up following the initial flush will be derivative in nature and, more times than not, sub-par in quality. With the preponderance of banjos, mandolins, acoustic guitars and stand-up basses on the current musical landscape, it seems everyone and their brother is getting into the act of creating so-called earnest folk pop. Vocal affectations, simple platitudes, minor/major verse/chorus structures, unison lyrical recitations shouted at the top of one’s voice, acoustic bombast. It’s all there and then some on Judah & The Lion’s Kids These Days.
Nashville roots would hint at a greater understanding of their musical heritage, however, given that city’s current reputation for churning out cookie-cutter rock-tinged country hits that are all gloss and no substance, it should come as little surprise that Judah & The Lion offer little more than the a folk-tinged pop version of the same same. Instead of channeling big rock hooks, they look to the current crop of folk-minded sensitive types currently polluting the musical landscape with their overly earnest, acoustic-rooted dreck.
Having clearly put in the requisite time to learn the appropriate styling and posturing, Judah & The Lion manage to perfectly replicate the vapid nature of their most direct influences, capturing the general tone of hippie feel-goodery, deploying the appropriate level of simplistic, universally-relatable-on-the-basest-level lyrics, and frantic snare/banjo breaks that quickly disrupt dirge-like intros designed for maximum impact, shouted unison choruses. It’s all been done before and will continue to be done again and again so long as this type of music is embraced by the unwashed masses preferring to feel and live in the moment rather than think and accept the consequences of living in said moment.
"Twenty-Somethings", one of the more lyrically vapid numbers here with its "you can’t stop us/you can’t bring us down/we’re just lovin’ life/we don’t got it figured out" pre-chorus attempts to downplay the calculated nature of what Judah & The Lion are attempting with Kids These Days. Rather than creating something earnest and profound, as seems to be their aim, they’ve come up with a cringe-inducing pastiche of the worst clichés currently on display via acts ranging from the aforementioned Mumfords through to Edward Sharpe & co., Fleet Foxes, et. al.
Saving the worst for last, "Somewhere In-Between"' essentially sums up the ethos of the majority who subscribes to this type of music, describing in detail their propensity for skinny jeans, V-necks and tank tops that “hang a little loose”, and grandpa’s hats with the quick rejoinder that they "ain’t no hipster". Rather the titular sentiment refers to their view of self as being somewhere in between being that of a hipster and a redneck, managing to again appeal to the lowest common denominator in both pop culturally dominating camps, taking the two disparate extremes and fusing them into one unholy, zeitgeist-tapping monster.
The sooner this trend of bearded, flannel-clad mountain men wielding traditional instruments played in a folk-rock style loses favor with the public at large, the better. Until then, Judah & The Lion are just as good as anyone else out there doing exactly the same thing and Kids These Days will no doubt find favor with those who enjoy this current trend. It’s all harmless and quaint and everything it should be in all the places it should. Call it play-by-numbers folk rock, Mumford & Sons edition.