SYDNEY band Gang Of Youths have never been afraid to be ambitious. When many of their indie-rock contemporaries have been satisfied to reach theatres, or maybe arenas, Gang Of Youths strive for the starlight of stadiums.
After all, frontman Dave Le'aupepe has always sounded like the lovechild of Bono and Bruce Springsteen.
This earnestness could be considered trite, if their execution wasn't so genuine.
After the success of their 2018 second album Go Farther In Lightness, the five-piece have relocated to London and returned with their biggest statement yet, Angel In Realtime. It's essentially a concept album exploring the 2018 death of Le'aupepe's father and the grief, guilt and acceptance surrounding it.
"How do I face the world?/ Or raise a f--kin' kid?/ Or see beauty in the Earth and all its majesty replete/ When I've spent the better part of my twenties/ Doing self-indulgent bullshit on repeat?" Le'aupepe asks his father on the anthemic opener You In Everything.
However, the story is more than a grief-stricken son losing his father. Upon his death secrets were revealed about Le'aupepe's father, which included a secret family he'd abandoned in Samoa and allowed them to believe he was dead.
"Lord knows if they would ever forgive me/ I don't forgive myself, at least," Le'aupepe croons from his father's perspective on Tend The Garden, a funk-inspired pop song that wouldn't feel out of place on U2's Achtung Baby.
Then on stark piano ballad, Brothers, Le'aupepe shares his own guilt when he adds, "And I hate myself for stealing all his love/ When my brothers thought that he was dead."
To soundtrack Le'aupepe's family tale, Gang Of Youths have produced a cinematic accompaniment that's all strings, and urgent drums and guitar. On the album's stronger moments (The Angel Of 8th Ave, The Kingdom Is Within You and Spirit Boy) Gang Of Youths nail the drama correctly, but on Forbearance it's overblown.
Gang Of Youths deserve respect to aiming for greatness with an album in the era of streaming. On Angel In Realtime they land agonisingly close.
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