CD Review: Young Legionnaire “Crisis Works”

While moments on Young Legionnaire’s Crisis Works sound like an indie version of The Smashing Pumpkins meets YCNI:M, the majority of the album delivers impressive post-hardcore. On the few tracks which have more of a new wave slant, the Bloc Party influence is apparent. Overall, the guitar work is a strength on this album, which is chock-full of memorably epic solos, bridges and outros. The power and drama of Crisis Works – musically, vocally and lyrically – is what really strikes the listener.

“Twin Victory” is crunchy and sexy, reminiscent of Death from Above 1979 and At the Drive In. The heaviest track of the bunch tries to set the pace for this great alt rock ’90s-esque album, though it may be a smidgen misleading, as nowhere else on the album does there exist a song which sustains this particular kind of almost overwhelming chaos. The riff is explosive and the time signature change that leads into a Thursday-esque stretch adds an additional dimension of interest.

“Numbers” was performed live for a BBC session prior to the album’s release. The album version’s vocals are a bit too clean and overall, the sound is somewhat distant. Nevertheless, it is an energetic track and the notes Paul Mullen hits vocally are paired well with the music prior to the infectious guitar solo. The tracks “Youth Salute” and “Futures Finished” work with the same principles.

“Chapter, Verse” has a surprisingly successful simple structure which relies on repetition. This hypnotic, moving anthem proves that less can be more. Angst fueled, this track is one of many that has a post-hardcore sound on this release. Mullen is a master of balancing harmony with heavier elements.

My favourite song on the album is “Black Lions,” which combines quavering vocals with climactic guitars that have a resonant, ringing effect. This song is pure ’90s but more high definition; think Stone Temple Pilots at their greatest and the Pumpkins, climaxing a la “Stand Inside Your Love.” The DFA-like rock out at the end is somewhat out of place though and would be better suited to be an instrumental track on its own, but the postmodern approach is commendable.

The ferocious “Mortgage Rock” is fragmented yet cohesive. This dynamic track possesses a perfect balance with super sweet backing vocals and aggressive lead vocals. “These Arms” has a tinny ’80s sounding drumbeat behind a fast-paced riff that is tight and rhythmic while the sense of things to come builds. The cleanliness suits this track, which sounds like a fusion of YCNI:M and Bloc Party, much like “Nova Scotia,” while “Blood Dance” has a sprinkle more post-hardcore goodness (i.e. Sunny Day Real Estate) tossed in for good measure.

There is an oddness to “Even the Birds,” an experimental song which features off kilter elements. There is a sense of flight which is suiting to the title of the track. This song sounds like the collaboration album that brought Moakes and Mullen together – the Print is Dead album where YCNI:M collaborated with Bloc Party on a track.

“A Hole In the World” sounds like newer Bloc Party. There is some beauty to this slow song, but it is rather run of the mill in terms of indie today, until the punchier end of the song where emotion is conveyed well by the guitar.

While some critics have suggested Crisis Works is not unique enough, and that it is Young Legionnaire’s next release that will hold more promise, I argue that this album has a rare kind of integrity that will please those who appreciate production and lovers of post-hardcore and ’90s alt rock equally, as well as those who are into today’s lo-fi indie rock. It will be particularly satisfying to those who have been craving an addictive, truly rocking release.

My only criticism is that the recording could  stand to be a little less clean sometimes, possessing a bit more of the raw energy and distortion that the live BBC tracks that preceded the album had.

Rating: 9.5 / 10

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