EP Review: Sauna Youth – Dreamlands

Categorised as MUSIC., REVIEWS.

London’s Sauna Youth: “an evolving band of young future humans making truly irregular punk not quite comparable to anything else,” or so a refreshingly modest press release claims. In reality, within the first twenty seconds of pressing ‘play’ we are put in mind of the very seminal indie-rock group with which these juvenile, ahead-of-the-curve, highly evolved primates decided to share 50% of their name; though by no means is that a bad thing.

Over the course of its ten-minute length, sprawling punk-meets-krautrock opener ‘Town Called Distraction’ essentially tells the story of a supermarket trip gone awry via its unflinchingly sinister, if frivolously detailed at times, lyrics, delivered in the creepy monotones of Bobby Krlic of The Haxan Cloak and Martha Orchard of Edible Arrangements. It’s not so much ‘Dreamlands’ as it is ‘Nightmare-aisles’, perhaps (trololol). Despite its length (the entirety of side A for vinyl copy owners), it’s a more to-the-point and direct opener than any lazily titled/written ‘Intro’ type song released this year.

Side B, meanwhile, entails the sort of 2-3 minute garage-rock onrushes Sauna Youth are known for. The influences are varied, if a little derivative of each other. ‘Snapback’ is essentially ‘Pinhead’ by The Ramones but with a discernable chorus; ‘Viscount Discount’ sounds like early Arctic Monkeys on speed, whilst previous free download ‘PSI Girls’ comes across like the demo of an unreleased Hives track. But while there’s plenty of scope for anyone to play the ‘unoriginal’ card, to do so would be missing the point.

What ‘Dreamlands’ brings to the garage-rock revival table might not be innovative, but, shit me, is it energetic. Rarely does garage-rock sound so much like four people just playing in a garage. The faded, blurry sounding vocals on ‘PSI Girls’ and ‘Planned Designs’ are frustrating until you imagine an oversized PA echoing them around a dank, concrete room into an inadequate mic, at which point they start to sound appealingly crude and uncompromised.

It all culminates in the longest ‘normal’ song on the LP, ‘Hairstyles’, with a clattersome drumbeat as unrelenting as its lyrics. “And she says n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-nothing/And he says n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-nothing,” repeats frontman Harper Ecke for the track’s entire second half, with knowing irony, perhaps, saying nothing in three-and-a-half minutes that the other tracks couldn’t say in two.

Pernicketyness aside, ‘Dreamlands’ belatedly sees a British band creating their own take on the Americans’ fertile scene of earthy, aggressive garage-punk. In a year that, come October, will see Ty Segall release his third album since April, the timing arguably couldn’t be better.

Dreamlands is released on 3rd September

Will Dix

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