Music

The Like Young: So Serious

Katie Zerwas

The Like Young

So Serious

Label: Parasol
US Release Date: 2004-06-01
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

When is it appropriate to refer to the "roots" of a genre? If contemporary "roots rock" refers to rock music of the '60s and '70s, then I suppose one would have to wait at least 30 odd years before announcing a "roots" revival genre. This would make it just about time to keep an eye out for roots-punk with roots-grunge a mere twinkle in the eye of some young middle-American child on the verge of discovering the nirvana of flannel shirts. Regardless, it is definitely too soon for "roots-emo." Or, is it? As emo rock has strayed long and far from its seminal waters of mid-'90s Weezer (ca. Pinkerton) and gotten lost in the dark and acrid tsunami of teary-eyed teeny-boppers just out of braces and Britney Spears records, is it possible that a new wave of emo has arrived to save it from these vainglorious days of mediocrity and restore it to its former maturity level? Perhaps the latest album from Illinois duo the Like Young has the answer. On their sophomore gambit, ironically titled So Serious, the group shuck all emo pretensions and inhibitions and do what emo punks do best. They rock.

Like the Ramones with proto rock 'n' roll before them, the Like Young have taken the pace set by Weezer and their ilk and revved it up to maximum velocity. With twelve tracks clocking in at just over 24 minutes, there is no room for boredom or gratuitous flights of art-rock fancy. The Like Young proclaim "less is more" with their stripped-down guitar and drums orchestration and simple vocal harmonies that rely more on the texture of their intertwined vocal timbres than on overblown multi-tracked production gymnastics. What are revealed are lyrics with heart and hooks that hit hard and low. The duo have distilled the art of pop to a finely tuned science, creating just the right chemical mix to remind you why we all thought rock was the devil's music. Distorted power chords rip through delicate lyrical phrases, soaring to heights of ecstasy reminiscent of early onset hormonal surges, particularly on tracks like "Sharp or Messy" and "Tighten My Tie", where the drums key into that biological bass-drum groin-tingle response where the pious fear to tread. The Like Young are well-equipped with a full range of smart and catchy pop weaponry and are wholly unafraid to use it, be it darkly witty lyrics, off-color dissonance, enormous highs, or heart stopping lows, all at break-neck speed. This is not rock for the faint of heart.

Part of the group's genius lies in their clever, albeit prematurely clichéd boy/girl lineup with the lady on drums and vocals and her husband on guitars and vocals. Regardless of the familial connection, Joe and Amanda Ziemba are no Jack and Meg White. Aside from obvious stylistic differences, the dynamic between the Like Young is wholly different and seemingly more collaborative. Rather than a mere accompaniment, Mrs. Ziemba's drumming is the force behind the operation, driving the blinding speed and energy of the music and infusing it with a lyricism and cleverness that pervades the entire album. If one could call anything about their stripped-down and intentionally simplified sound "complex", it would be the seamless fusion of their two elements, a marriage in every sense of the word. The song "Heard Your Health" has as much machismo as any ax-grinding rocker, and proves once and for all that a feminine presence doesn't mean a softer touch.

If So Serious leaves anything to complain about, it would be that the group doesn't do enough, that the album is derivative and recycled emo, which is itself recycled trash. In the annals of Truly Great Rock, is there a Like Young shaped hole to fill? To ask that question would be, of course, missing the point. The Like Young don't promise to save rock, emo, the world, or even your pretty little head from insipid boredom. But, it's less than half an hour of great music. And, if that's not reason enough, they're smart. With a song like "Out to Get Me" they can do what every good rock band can do, only in one minute and twelve seconds. Can your favorite band do that? Like all great minimalists, these artists have discovered what makes their art work, distilled it to a single bold phrase, and then isolated the verb. The result is smart, concentrated rock that pulls no punches and always aims fearlessly below the belt.

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
Amazon

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
7

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
10

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
8

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 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image