When the masked protagonist of the new film adaptation of V for Vendetta isn't inciting the overthrow of a Mosleyesque fascist leader, he apparently unwinds to the tune of Julie London's "Cry Me a River" and Cat Power's cover of the Velvets' "I Found a Reason." I wouldn't have thought a knife-fighting terrorist would be so drawn to introspective chanteuses, but if so, Young People might be right up his alley. Singer Katie Eastburn has some of Chan Marshall's otherworldliness (though not her solipsism), and the band's sparse instrumentation is a distant cousin to London's early records--though filtered through Eastburn and Jarrett Silberman's noise-friendly sensibility.
Last month's Five Sunsets in Four Days, a hermetic six-track EP with titles drawn from '30s and '40s Hollywood films, marked the band's farewell to guitarist Jeff Rosenberg. On the more user-friendly All At Once, the remaining duo fill the vacancy with simple piano parts ("R&R") and percussion chosen for tone color as much as for rhythm ("Forget"). The guitar-dominated songs are just as resourceful: On "Dark Rainbow" and "On the Farm," Silberman creates more mood and warmth with a few reverbed chords or a haze of feedback than many players do with an army of effects pedals. "F," with its treated electronic drone, is the odd track out, but even here, a layer of decidedly human handclaps takes the edge off.
Shifting from a mumble to a belt within syllables, Eastburn isn't always at pains to make her lyrics audible, but she's said that much of the album is the product of "praying her guts out" for her brother, a U.S. solider recently stationed in Iraq. The titles ("Your Grave," "Reapers," "Heads Will Roll") make this concern more explicit than the words themselves, which weave fragments of archaic language ("O cursed night has happened o'er and o'er") and pre-rock pop ("Slow Moving Storm" glances at Harold Arlen's "Get Happy") into something more evocative than narrative. Mournful and adventurous, All At Once is too oblique to fit most notions of "protest music," but it still deserves a spot on any rebel's jukebox.
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