Monday, 4 January 2010

R.I.P. Youthmovies.

Right, this isn't particularly well written, but it it is heartfelt. I will probably come back to this and tweek and fine tune it, but for now, this will have to do.

Now, I dunno about you, but when people tell me that one of their favourite bands is someone/people that they know I tend to be pretty sceptical about how good they're actually going to be. There's always that part of me that thinks, 'Yeah, okay, but are you just saying that coz they're your mates?'
So whilst I realise that some of what I am about to write could be easily discredited, the fact is that the end of 2009 brought with it some pretty sad news. (I say pretty, only because one of the guys had told me this would be happening a few weeks beforehand, so I had some fair warning.)
Youthmovies announced that they have split up.

I can't remember exactly when it was that I first saw them, but I do remember it was a good few years ago, either just before or just after they'd moved to Oxford. Anyway, they were still called Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies back then and if memory serves me correctly (which it probably doesn't) they looked a bit like a gang of emo-nazis, all buzz cut and in faded jeans with plain t-shirts. I am almost certainly remembering that wrong, but hey it's my memory and I'm sticking with it.
The music they played was a kind of ADD post-rock prog voyage to the centre of the riff style exploration of as many time signatures as they could lay their filthy mitts on, and I loved it. I'm pretty sure this was before they released their first album/mini album/whatever you wanna call it, 'Lets Get Going... You're Fracturing Me With This Misery' (an album title that at the time seemed like quite a daring and forward-thinking statement of intent that perfectly summed up the ethos of a band trying to push the boundaries, but now is more likely to make you cock your head and go 'Awwww....' in a rather patronising way), because I remember first listening to it already knowing and adoring the first Youthmovies song I loved, 'The If Works', a near nine minute monsterpiece of grand prog-riff-onomic proportions.

Over time I saw them again and again in these tiny venues thinking to myself how they should and could be much bigger than they were. This opinion grew as they released their next EP/Album/CD, the even more 'Awwww...' inducingly titled 'Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness' (Bless), which contained two more total loves in 'A Little Late He Staggered Through The Door And Into Her Eyes', a song which sounded like the worlds poshest football chant, and '...Spooks The Horse', the utterly epic closer with a final third that still makes my head buzz whenever I hear it.

Inbetween or before or after or whenever came some great little moments.
There was the YMSS & The Young Knives gig at White Heat in London, in which a massively untrendy bunch of us from Oxford went to play with and get stared at by all the haircuts and posers that turned out to see what the Shire had sent to entertain them. It was hilarious, we probably couldn't've been more out of place if we'd tried. It was kind of like we had gone to a fancy dress party only to find that it wasn't fancy dress at all and we all stuck out like sore thumbs. It was a great gig tho.
There was the time that I went with the YMSS boys to their old university to see 65 Days Of Static play a gig. It is the only time I have ever drunk snakebite; Ham wouldn't let me drink anything else!
There was the split single on which they released the rather damn fine and sexy 'When We Won't Have To Make The Freezing Scene No More' (along with another great song, 'Horses' by The Edmund Fitzgerald) which I think I've only ever seen them play about twice. I remember the last time they played it, they had to stop because they'd forgotten how to link two parts of the song together and after about half a minute of trying to remember, just went straight into the end section and rocked it out. It was both utterly shambolic and totally awesome at the same time (which is probably how they themselves would describe their time being in the band). I did used to shout for this song at gigs, but the last time I did I'm pretty sure the response was: Andrew: 'Fuck off.' Al: 'You probably know that song better than we do.'
Fair play then.

They started to do less gigs as they wrote new songs, changed their name simply to Youthmovies (which was what everyone called them anyway so it made total sense really), gained a new band member and got themselves a new deal for the album. The "proper" album. 'Good Nature'.

Good God that's a damn fine album. Seriously. If I were to do a list of my albums of the decade, that would DEFINITELY be in it. Gone were the math-prog excesses, replaced with a desire to write what could more recognisably be described as songs. There were more vocals, less time changes and a definite sense that these were cohesive songs rather than perilously put together musical fragments. For some that meant the excitement had gone, but for more that meant the experience was more immersing. Hell, I liked them both ways, but 'Good Nature' is the release that I will always go back to out of all of them. It's just an extremely well put together album or really great songs. One of those albums that I couldn't stop listening to when it came out coz it just got better each time. New fragments, new sounds, then as you learn those, the old old ones take on new emphasis. You know when reviewers say something like 'This album demands repeated listens', this is definitely one of those.
Cream of the crop for me; 'The Last Night Of The Proms' which annoyingly I can't think of anything specific to say about right now, the stunning 'If You'd Seen A Battlefield' which contains the lyric 'It's not going well and it's not going badly, it's just going along.' which I would be willing to argue is one of the greatest song lyrics of all time, and the pretty phenomenal 'Something For The Ghosts', which whenever they played live was one of the best things you would ever have seen in your life for the sheer power of what they would do with the instrumental part.

Oh yeah, and I sang on it, which was a fucking great day and something that I will remember forever. I wrote a blog about that when it happened. Go here if you want to read about that:

(Somewhere in time was the utterly ace gig they did as Damo Suzuki's backing band at the Cellar in Oxford. This showcased another side of Youthmmovies, the soundscape side, and fuck did they do it well. I remember afterwards thinking that I really hoped they would keep hold of some of that material to work on and release, but of course there's no hope of that happening now. Well, there probably wasn't even then to be honest.)

There was another label change and a sharp new ep 'Polyp', followed by another name change, this time to Youm, and the official word was that they were working on new material with the intention of releasing a new album in 2010.

Soon though they became a bit too spread out to be able to keep it going. It was fine with Al living in London, Oxford to London is a piece of piss journey, but with Ham moving to Liverpool, Andrew becoming the manager of a pub full time and Sam having commitments with his other band Jonquil, time for them all to be able to spend on the band together became minimal and... I dunno. It's always dangerous to speculate on these things when you don't actually know what happened, but you kind of got the sense that somewhere along the line their hearts just weren't in it anymore. It's a shame, a real shame, but these things do just happen.

And so I have to say farewell to one of my favourite bands. It's been one Hell of a ride, and I'm going to really miss it. Luckily they have said they will do some final gigs. It's strange how when you really like a band you feel that you in some way take ownership of them. You share moments with their music, you take their songs into you and they soundtrack parts of your life. I'll never forget the first time I heard 'Good Nature'. I'd had a really shitty day at work and Ham had handed me his iPod after my shift to listen to something, I can't remember what, but I decided to get nosey and found the album on there. This was a few months before it was released. I sat in the staff room and listened to the whole thing straight thru. Not only did it really cheer me up, but afterwards I thought to myself, 'They've done a really fucking good job here. They have done something they can be really proud of.' It made me really happy.
It's weird how music affects your feelings in ways you don't really understand, ways that nothing else does. I guess that's why we treasure the bands that we love so much, because to us they really mean something. They're there for us and when they go it does feel like you lose a part of yourself, like when any relationship ends.

I dunno, I'm just going into some serious waffle territory here. All I know is that in a way, Youthmovies felt like they were my band and I am really sad to see them go.

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