Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Gang of Youths – The Heart is a Muscle

Somewhat uncharacteristically, today’s track we actually like is by a cult Australian band.


William John: Gang of Youths are something of an anomaly in Australian indie rock’s narrow church, in that they have multiple non-white members and are unafraid to openly question the industry’s overwhelming and suffocating whiteness. Despite the scene’s stifling forces, they have achieved significant local success, with songs that present themselves as idealists and the exponents of earnest romanticism. A refrain like “the heart is a muscle, and I want to make it strong” is just the kind of cloying, mushy bullshit to which I am often susceptible. The You Forgot It In People-style backing bluster coats what is already a maudlin sentiment in perhaps too much syrup, but I can accept and admire the sincerity of their approach.

Alfred Soto: They’re right — the heart is a muscle. Got it. 

Julian Axelrod: It seems like every year brings a new gang of roguish lads with soaring, earnest good ol’ boy anthems and a Kings of Leon shrine in their bedroom. If Gang of Youths are the 2018 model, we could do a lot worse: This is solid, rousing beard rock that manages to be vaguely inspirational even as it grabs you by the shoulders and screams “ARE YOU INSPIRED YET???” But even though its five-plus minutes are bursting with ideas, none of it sticks. It’s not a great sign if the horn section is more memorable than your lead singer.

Edward Okulicz: Sounds for all the world as if The National weren’t soul-crushed and miserable about everything and discovered some abandon, but with most of the grandness intact. “The Heart is a Muscle” is corny and obvious in its gazes skywards for INSPIRATION, but it feels good, real good. “I want to be loooooved, I want to BE WHOLE AGAIN!” is sung like a sermon, and despite myself, I’m feeling just a little bit lifted at that point.

Will Adams: Songs about empathy are tricky territory these days, and the central sentiment only clicks for me when I’m running (“Gotta work it out…”). But the bounding tempo and David Le’aupepe’s galvanized vocal are convincing enough; the midway point, of “I want to make it strong!” followed by an explosion of horns, is downright breath-catching.

Jonathan Bradley: They met at Hillsong, but their church is that of indie rock: the rhythmic insistency of Young Fathers and the communal uplift of Arcade Fire. (The opening bars even sound like The National’s Matt Berninger doing a very Matt Berninger lyric about mixing up wine.) If it is derivative, it is also earnest, and “The Heart is a Muscle” gets a lot out of its unwavering sincerity. It cannot hope to be as big or as generous as its overdubs or its five-and-a-half minute runtime, but Gang of Youths have righteousness on their side. I want to be a part of what they’re feeling, even if I can’t believe in it as wholeheartedly as they do.

Reader average: [8.8] (5 votes)

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2 Responses to “Gang of Youths – The Heart is a Muscle”

  1. This is good, possibly great, would’ve given it a [8].

  2. Their song ‘Persevere’ is a lyrical masterpiece and the best song of 2017.