The recent demise of Trembling Bells was a sad loss in psychedelic folk circles, their Fairport hued and ambitious, questing albums a beacon of folk rock light in these dark times. It is therefore heartening to know that bassist Simon Shaw has gathered fellow Bell’s guitarist Mike Hastings and drummer Alex Neilson, alongside members of Glaswegian outfits Boss Hogg, Belle & Sebastian and Lucky Luke, for a new project, Youth of America. Combining corrosive psych rock, doomed 60’s girl group pop and New York new wave into a suitably heady brew, Youth of America have already impressed with their debut album, ‘YOA Rising’ (also reviewed by MOOF). Their new release, ‘The Bop Showaddy E.P’, consolidates and expands upon this promise and then some.
The EP opens with the jubilant ‘Johnny, Janis & Alex’, a freewheeling organ duelling with scattered bursts of psych guitar and Shangri-Las style melodies. What starts as a perfect piece of 60’s pop cascades mid song into a full on ‘White Light, White Heat’ era Velvet overload before returning with some of the purest and most uplifting harmonies this side of The Carpenters. As an opening statement of intent, this ably announces the arrival of a major player in the psych field, a band that will gladly fill the gap left by the Bells. Next, ‘Death Doula’ is a widescreen and epic road trip that matches Simon Shaw’s vocals with Lucy Sweet’s, thundering along on a foundation of hand claps, West Coast guitar and explosive drumming. This screams to be played loud on the cassette deck of an open top convertible, leaving trails of smoke, broken hearts and memories scattered all over the highway. ‘Y.O.A.’ follows, a more reflective slice of summer and sun frazzled descending riffs and dual harmonies that still finds space to accelerate and excite.
Indeed, Youth of America are supercharged here; this EP fizzes tangibly with both energy and exuberance. A bossa nova beat opens the finale, a reverb drenched and affectionate cover of ‘Sugar Baby Love’, shot through with a strong sense of melancholia and nostalgic yearning. Short but undoubtedly sweet, ‘The Bop Showaddy’ does what all good EPs or singles do, it leaves us wanting more.
It has been a long time since a band issued such a stand-alone EP that holds its own and becomes such a jewel in itself, rather than simply being a spun out single or just a promotional extra for an album. Instead, ‘The Bop Showaddy EP’ harks back to the days of Belle And Sebastian’s early series of classic EPs, each with their own identity, standing in their own right. Equally vital, Youth of America are firmly on their own trajectory; see if you can keep up, it promises to be quite a trip.