Young Widows – In and Out of Youth and Lightness Young Widows – In and Out of Youth and Lightness

Young Widows are serious, man. They don’t fool around. And they don’t take jokes. These Kentucky gentlemen rock with the kind of furious, beetle-browed intensity patented by fellow Louisvillians Slint, rad Cali spazzes Drive Like Jehu, and Dischord’s ‘90s roster (case in point: singer/guitarist Evan Patterson and singer/bassist Nick Thieneman used to be mathcore outfit Breather Resist, who nicked their name from a song by D.C. post-punk heavyweights Hoover). Sledgehammer drum hits, rumbling minor key bass runs, thickly buzzing six-string amplifier abuse: a power trio in the purest sense, and the polar opposite of the beach-obsessed, blissed-out, hazy-Davey stoner pop that’s been setting indie hearts a-flutter as of late. These dudes don’t go to the beach, and if they did, they’d wear jeans. And chains.

In and Out of Youth and Lightness is the Young Widows’ third long player, coming on the heels of 2006’s opening salvo, Settle Down City (which won “Best Album Title” in my brain’s annual music contest), and 2008’s excellent sophomore triumph Old Wounds. On their first two records, Patterson, Thieneman, and drummers Geoff Patton (Settle Down City) and Jeremy McMonigle (Old Wounds and In and Out of Youth and Lightness) set the bar pretty high, cranking out top shelf racket and establishing themselves as foremost purveyors of dark ‘n’ angry riffery. Tracks like Settle Down City’s “Almost Dead Beat” and Old Wounds’ “Took a Turn” are straight classics, putting churning rhythm sections and jarring, abrasive guitars behind Patterson’s detached vocals, pitched somewhere between rage and resignation. Tunes like that take your breath away like a punch to the solar plexus; a couple of listens and you’re ready to shove your fist through some drywall.

Young Widows’ fifth-form effort starts strong with the brooding “Young Rivers” and
“Future Heart,” as bruising an offering as the Young Widows have ever recorded. “In and Out of Youth” perpetuates the intensity, as Patterson slathers distorted chords all over everything, twisting the melody to the breaking point and highlighting Thieneman’s and McMonigle’s monster chops.

Unfortunately, the band seems to lose some of their trademark focus as the album moves forward, trading in the acrimony for some melancholy. In and Out of Youth and Lightness comes across like the sound of a band doing some deep thinking; and while there’s nothing wrong with deep thoughts, sometimes it’s best to just give in to the moment and kick out the jams. “Lean on the Ghost,” “The Muted Man,” and “Right in the End” tend to plod where they should stomp, dragging the record’s momentum down in a morass of druggy down-tunings. Though late-album monsters like “Miss Tambourine Wrist” and “White Gold Rings” (home of the album’s best hook) inject some much-needed energy into the proceedings, seven-plus minute closer “In and Out of Lightness” wears out its welcome with a mid-tempo attack that errs on the side of tediousness.

But here’s the thing: even though In and Out of Youth and Lightness is Young Widows’ least compelling product to date, it still has more balls than most of the pap that passes for rock these days. And for fans of the dour, pummeling noise that made up a good portion of college radio playlists in the Clinton era, it’s worth repeated listens. So grab a cold domestic, stop using conditioner, and brace yourself.


1. “Young Rivers”
2. “Future Heart”
3. “In and Out of Lightness”
4. “Lean on the Ghost”
5. “The Muted Man”
6. “Right in the End”
7. “Miss Tambourine Wrist”
8. “White Golden Rings”
9. “In and Out of Youth”

Young Widows - In and Out of Youth and Lightness, reviewed by Brandon Gentry on 2011-08-01T08:53:46-07:00 rating 3.5 out of 5

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