Music

Electric Youth: Innerworld

Photo: Chris Muir

"This year... in a world... 'A Real Hero' will rise again! But this time it's not alone."


Electric Youth

Innerworld

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release date: 2014-09-30
UK Release date: 2014-09-29
Amazon
iTunes

So what do you want first, the good or bad news? M'kay. The bad news is there's nothing on Electric Youth's début album as good as "A Real Hero". Although that's not exactly a jawdropper shocker as it's one of the most imperial pop treasures of recent memory. Originally graduating from College's (AKA David Grellier) '80s inspired Valerie collective way back in 2009 as a word-of-mouth future classic, "Hero" received full honours and a 21-gun salute thanks to its use not once, but twice in Nicolas Winding Refn's too-cool-for-skool movie Drive. Since then it's become de rigueur to play it under cover of darkness whilst cloaked in a satin scorpion jacket, chewing on a toothpick and staring enigmatically into the abyss. A loving embrace of analogue chic synths, nightrunner beats and singer Bronwyn Griffin's hearty salute to Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot who miraculously landed Flight 1549 on the Hudson river. A stone cold classic and unsurprisingly the VIP Top Cat amongst the crew of Innerworld. But fear not, as the good news is this Youth's début still has plenty to admire.

As with "A Real Hero", Innerworld dreams not for our modern age but more for the pioneering, futurist spirit of 1980s electropop. Its dozen ditties shimmy and slide along the same illuminated dancefloors once graced by the likes of Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait", Shannon's "Let the Music Play", When in Rome's "The Promise", Alphaville's "Forever Young" or Eighth Wonder's "I'm Not Scared". Though luckily not Debbie Gibson's actual "Electric Youth". Magical youthful visions that somehow eternally sound like tomorrow. Their surface may be pastel jumpsuits, fizzy neon, wide-eyed optimism and aching idealism but underneath there's always a sting of 'end of the innocence' sadness.

The five-years of "Self imposed artist development" following "Hero" have given Griffin and childhood sweetheart Austin Garrick a chance to create a consistent, classy pop record. Bookended by instrumentals -- the sunriser kiss of "Before Life" and the afterglow embers of "Outro" -- almost every track inbetween shines like a glamorous, poolside Europop smash from 1986. Recent single "Runaway" captures our young lovers on the run, likely on rollerskates, blowing bubblegum and dandelions in the last gasp of summer, running from the adults who don't understand. Romance and escapism are the Bonnie N' Clyde of Innerworld. Lightly lilting, sugar sweet vocals, cool breeze synths and a future unwritten across outstretched horizons. "Maybe we could just run away / Leave this place for good / Cos we're both misunderstood." It's followed by the fabulously titled "We Are the Youth" which rolls through your neighbourhood like one of the lesser known, more sparkly and pink gangs from The Warriors. 'The Young' likely being the gang with the shiniest hair, the Dons of vocal harmonies and elaborate synchronized dancing. "We are the youth / We love to sing / Oh oh oh." Cheesy as Camembert on paper but it makes for exquisite 'blue sky' pop. The drifting, tiny dancer of "Innocence" adds a bittersweet cloud of nostalgia though. It curses the inevitable landslide into adulthood beneath a Godless sky... albeit in the nicest possible way, through a sepia soft, lens flare haze of delicate butterfly strings and bumblebee bass.

So far so fluorescent, but having got their motors running Electric Youth wisely take a few interesting detours. "Without You" is the first to push Innerworld up a gear with pouting, punchy percussion and a slightly sinister electrosnake bassline that shakes you from the cosy, candy coloured daydreams of its predecessors. A jilted lover's 'screw you' to her ex, "You'll never find another!" It teeters on tragi-disco and delivers a belting, 'Standing on a mountain and singing your heart out whilst being filmed by a helicopter' chorus. Majestic. A cover of Irish tunesmith John McGlynn's waltz "If All She Has Is You" further triggers unexpected chills. An enchanting, theatrical soliloquy, sparse with just vocal and elegiac Vangelis keys, "She waited in vain / A figure in black." A spectral and curiously forlorn aside. Its oddly unsettling "Mmm mmm" fade all but wraps a macabre black bow around a minor key Greek tragedy.

The final lap around Innerworld subsequently feels quite triumphant. The legendary Vince Clarke sprinkles some space dust and wonky synths over the glittery, yearning 2012 single "The Best Thing" whilst the epic, night drive of "Tomorrow" hotwires the cinematic highways of College with beefy basslines swiped from under John Carpenter's silvery moustache. A sensual, sleek, dark disco glider. At six minutes it gets a chance to cut free beyond the Pop City limits and delivers one of the album's most electrifying rides. The Youth can clearly 'do' classy pop but more of this night rider off-roading would be most welcome. It's strong enough you forgive ambient filler "She’s Sleeping Interlude" and the (cough) suspiciously familiar "Another Story" before here come the warm jets of the Mothership... Yes, Electric Youth bid "Au Revoir" as they, er, bid "Bonjour" with "A Real Hero". As enjoyable as Innerworld is, "Hero" towers over the rest like Godzilla gently patting the head of a midget. Even after a gazillion plays time still seemingly pauses for four-and-a-half minutes just to bask in its glory. As it fades into the rearview mirror, it is thus technically impossible to leave Innerworld without feeling, well, like both "A real hero" and dammit, "A real human being."

The cool, dreamy Innerworld is a sweet and shiny synth pop sparkler, lovingly crafted with refreshing sincerity and warmth. A loving spoonful antidote to much of 2014's salacious n' shameless pop. It's revivalist yet box fresh, with not an ounce of knowing kitsch, arched cynicism or winking irony which makes it all the more endearing. Though not particularly original -- "A Real Hero's" trademark bass roll makes several appearances -- and fluffy as candyfloss in parts there's enough hooks and heart to make Electric Youth more than just "That Drive band". But hey, it wouldn't be such a tragedy to be remembered for one moment that perfect.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Music

10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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