100 for 2000 – #20. Youth Group – Urban & Eastern

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2001 – #10. Youth Group – Urban And Eastern
(Ivy League)

Youth Group loom large over the decade. Originally from Canberra, they started off in Sydney just as I was old enough to go to gigs. They are my favourite Australian band of the last ten years. Probably tosses and turns with one other as being THE band of the decade for me. They will recur again and again on this list, but right now lets talk about their debut album Urban And Eastern.

Youth Group had released four singles by the time this album came around. They were great, they were fun, and they were already my favourite band on the Ivy League label. Then they went on tour with Gaslight Radio and Gersey and came back sounding very different. That bright little pop band now opened up to something spookier, with long guitar freak outs and moody elements.

They brought this to their debut album. Blue Leaves, Red Dust is as fine an opener as any song I’ve heard. Starting slow, it tells of a trip through the Australian countryside for a funeral, but also looking for a musical voice that’s not from “Tallahassee or Nashville”, before the song does a take off into the sky.

The funeral theme is closed out in the second last track, Spry Griever. Another 7 minute plus epic, it’s a heartbroken scream of a song. Sadder still, months after this album came out, there was a death in the family of the Youth Group ranks. Those shows immediately after were of stunning power.

In between those two, there are plenty of the quirky pop stuff that made Youth Group’s early name. Happiness’ Border has a Pavement feel but never loses Toby Martin’s unique voice (and lyrical concerns). Booth Street is the most touching love song Martin had written to date. Elsewhere, I Don’t Care, written for bassplayer Andy Cassell’s wedding day, is still a rush of fun and romance.

It’s hard to find heros in life sometimes. I loved so much music, but I didn’t actually want to be like Tim Rogers of You Am I, or Jeff Tweedy or Wilco. Or Iggy. Or Jagger. I wasn’t as tough as that – and I didn’t want to be. I was on the look out for something new – after my dalliance with po-faced alt-country – and found it with Youth Group. They were just guys in Sydney. They weren’t wacky pop stars, and they weren’t tortured artists. They weren’t Dandy Warhol type posers… they were just so natural.

And clever. Those early singles and this album especially, they looked like they were having fun. And I wanted to have fun too. I wanted to wrote witty things, and bright melodies. I wanted, like this band, to write songs that mentioned animal rennet, the Mascot ANZ and Chris De Burgh. Having loved music so much, Youth Group were really the catalyst for me to start taking seriously the business of making music. I moved to Newtown and got some decent guitars after this.

They went on to do so much more than this record, but god I saw a lot of shows where they played a lot of these songs. They got so good so fast. And as excited as I was about this record, I knew the next one would be better…

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