The Poems, “Young America”
“Don’t stop thinking about good times” are the lyrics that close out Young America, sung with joyful abandon and undeniably heartfelt. That sentiment runs deep throughout The Poem’s Minty Fresh debut. The Scottish four-piece, which counts The Bluebells Robert Hodgens among its members (and rarely identifiable cameos from Isobell Campbell and Norman Blake), radiates pleasantness through each of the album’s 10 tunes. The placid pipes of Amy Ogletree and Kerry Polwart are eternally patient and mothering, guiding the melodies along safe, time-tested paths. Their instrumental cheer squad contributes rollicking piano lines and stiffly strummed guitars, which trade places with the digital plops of keyboards and Abbey Road-era horn charts throughout the course of the album. Though oftentimes lively, Young Americans slows down occasionally to near down-tempo status, the gentle melodies relaying grins without being giddy.
The album opens with the charmingly adult contemporary “Sometime Somewhere Someone Should Say Something,” which gives an enjoyable but misleading preview. “So Soon,” “See the Sunrise” and “I Am a Believer” are only a few of the tracks bearing a striking resemblance to the work of The Go-Betweens, yet without outright ripping them off. Rather, they incorporate the classic pop structures with ornate, breezy melodies, as if hand-sewing the details into a sundress.
But the eye for detail that keeps Young America interesting tends to be too focused on blissed out melodies to be dynamic. As if stoned on vicodin, the melodies and style of break-up song “Ballad of a Bitter End” do little to reflect the disappointed platitudes being sung. After a while the record’s even keel makes for monotonous aural waters. Only “I Just Want Out of Here” and “So Soon” manage to be truly bittersweet (and nothing more), swept up in guitar hum and pointed soloing, but stops well before sad enters the equation. But not everyone can musically bawl at the drop of a hat; and with Young America, it seems much more The Poems’ bag to impart satisfying smiling pop songs anyway.