Yüth Forever - “Skeleton Youth Forever”
Buy on iTunes, Bandcamp, or through Prosthetic Records
Since Christmas Day 2015, the only taste we had of Yüth Forever’s then-forthcoming junior album was, in frontman Dev MacGillivray’s words, “a lil 15 second clip of the song [they’d] been playing live, ‘growing pains’” shared on his Twitter. It’s a microscopic peek into the album’s forty-six minute run time, but it set up some exciting prospects going into what we’d come to know as Skeleton Youth Forever, which wouldn’t be out for another six months when the clip dropped. The knotty guitarwork and off-kilter rhythms that have been a staple of the band’s sound since its Villains days was intact, but the biggest surprise in those scant few seconds was Dev’s performance.
Like it or not, 10 Code had a hand in popularizing the “downtempo” movement in hardcore, and has since carved itself a place in history as the hearts of the “skeleton youth” (a term, like Slipknot’s “maggots,” that the band uses to describe its fanbase) remember it. 10 Code remains one of the band’s most cohesive efforts, but prior to June 3rd of this year, I would have said it was the band’s most cohesive effort. For all its positives, Freudian Slip doesn’t feel like a proper follow-up to 10 Code, despite multiple call-backs to that album, to the extent that Skeleton Youth Forever feels like a bridging of the two and a net improvement on the weaknesses of both.
10 Code’s success lies in its unrelenting heaviness, its seamless transitions, and its sometimes brutally introspective lyrics. Freudian Slip tries to progress the 10 Code sound in questionable directions by tacking on a text-to-speech intro, more guitar skronk, a weird cover-as-interlude thing (“Better Off Alone”), and even an attempt to replicate 10 Code’s emotive “Death And Serenity” with Freudian Slip’s title track. The result is an unfocused, sometimes overwrought album that’s hurt as often as it’s helped by Dev’s first time on the mic, having only recently made the move from drums to vocals. His inexperience shows both as a lyricist and as a frontman, but there are enough highlights across the board to keep Freudian Slip safely above the “sophomore slump” line.
That “lil 15 second clip” of this album’s “GROWING PAINS” was worth getting excited about because it previewed a drastically-improved Dev from the one we heard back in 2014. No signs of growing pains here - two years of active touring and writing have given Dev the chance to get comfortable in his new role and to find his rhythm alongside the rest of the band. This was even a selling point in later promotions for the album: Dev promised that Skeleton Youth Forever would not only be “the BEST record we have ever created,” but that it would also feature “a lot of weird or funky parts that I wrote because I was really into disco music at the time,” and that it “just makes me want to dance.”
And for the most part, Skeleton Youth Forever makes good on these promises! It ditches the rigid riffwork and clunky structuring of Freudian Slip for a looser and, sure, more danceable ear for groove that keeps the album moving from track to track without the need for static fade-ins-and-outs to create the illusion of continuity. The three interludes, titled after “personifications of things [Dev feels he’s] lost,” play like vital pieces of the album rather perfunctory filler this time around, and the beat tracks are mean and assertive, an unexpected change-up from their prior role as emotional climaxes - “SUICIDAL PISTOL GRIP PUMP” is a total curveball of an opener in this sense, a grimy banger over which Dev spits the sort of tortured verse that has quickly become his trademark. No one in the scene does misery quite like him, and he does it best on album highlights “PEOPLE PLEASER,” “INSEPARABLE,” and “FOREVER,” not to mention the masterful “THE SONG I WROTE FOR YOU,” which might just join the ranks of “The Deep Six” and “The Recluse” as one of the best deep-cuts in the Yüth Forever catalogue. Elsewhere, “Villains” sports a kickass reprise of the breakdown on 10 Code’s “Presage” for long-time fans, and “BITTERROMANTIC PT. 3” continues the saga started on Freudian Slip with another round of hard-hitting lyricism and a gutbucket low-end assault. While nothing about the track quite measures up to the massive “Pt. 1,” it squashes the droning “Pt. 2” and leaves the door cracked for a “Pt. 4.”
10 Code and Freudian Slip, in spite of their musical and ideological disparities, were identical in one respect: they were deeply personal albums that function as snapshots of a troubled period of time in the lives of their makers. Music like this isn’t made in a vacuum or for the hell of it, and lyrics from both albums read like snippets of longer interior conversations. Despite the rawness of much of what’s said, one still gets the sense that each song is only the tip of one iceberg or another. That’s understandable: there’s an element of the unknowable in art made for oneself, a sense that not everything can or should be known about the frame of mind that engendered it. This is true for both of Yüth Forever’s previous albums, but Skeleton Youth Forever distinguishes itself on this front, too: it isn’t interested in keeping things close to the chest, or at least not as close to the chest as its predecessors. This is an album that wants to open up the conversation, that wants to universalize its personal battles, to let the skeleton youth know that, whoever they are and to whatever degree they identify as such, they aren’t alone. Not now, or anymore.
Skeleton Youth Forever is a resounding success for Yüth Forever, signalling to anyone who’s paying attention that they’re not going anywhere but up.