Released: April 15, 2008
Saturdays = Youth is promising when it opens with “You, Appearing.” The piano is as warm and embracing as a fireplace on a cold winter day, and it seems to be laying the groundwork for an incredibly rich album. When the vocals finally kick in, they’re slightly urgent and desperate but pleasant and intriguing; they build on the promise that this is going to be a great listen.
Then the second track, “Kim & Jessie,” starts, and it’s like hearing an alternate-universe version of the Psychedelic Furs, one where Richard Butler couldn’t write memorable songs.
Years ago, when I was an aspiring rock star, I had a fight with one of our producers. She said that every good pop song should still sound compelling if it was played on acoustic guitar. I told her that she was full of crap, and that Nine Inch Nails is a perfect example of a band that would sound awful if some twit picked up a guitar and sang one of their songs.
Johnny Cash proved me wrong on that one.
There’s nothing on Saturdays = Youth that Johnny Cash could sing. The lyrics are bad poetry, and the melodies are completely forgettable. The only time the album works is when the band moves away from dull ’80s pop, like they do on “Couleurs” and “Midnight Souls Still Remain.” The rest of the time, it follows a recipe of 1/3 annoying Kate Bush (without the intelligence), 1/3 smarmy Martin Gore (without the pop sensibility), and 1/3 (enter overwrought ’80s never-made-it pop band here, e.g. Dream Academy, All About Eve, Icicle Works). The end result is a stew of everything that was lame about ’80s synth pop, without any of the elements that made it so charming the first time around.
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