Album Review: Citizen - 'Youth'

24 June 2013 | 2:58 am | Staff Writer

Catchy, morose rock; emotionally exhausting in the best sense possible.

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There's been an ongoing trend lately with bands that have been ostensibly melodic pop-punk groups coming out with albums that channel the intensity and passion of their earlier work, but glossed with a layer of 90's alternative rock influence that calls to mind the likes of Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. Like Run for Cover label mates Turnover and Daylight, Ohio five-piece Citizen have delivered a slice of hooky, bleak alt-punk with debut album 'Youth', showcasing a sense of maturity that belies the record's title – not to mention the actual age of Citizen's members; all still in their teens.

Immediately throwing away the upbeat poppiness of last year's 'Young States' EP, first track 'Roam the Room' is a decidedly dark, cathartic opener. “I'm done”, declares frontman Mat Kerekes. It's with a sense of wryness - on the contrary, we're just getting started delving into the emotionally-charged portrait Kerekes and co. paint across the ten tracks collected on 'Youth'.

While 'Youth' has a fairly consistent mood of somberness, the album's pretty diverse in terms of the way each track actually sounds – something that can often be lost with this style of music to a feeling of repetition. Citizen carefully balance melody and aggression within each song enough to create contrast, hooky riffs and memorable choruses complement the melancholic nature of the record, as seen best on album single 'The Summer' and 'Your Head Got Misplaced'. As far as the full-length as a whole, there's a healthy mix of energetic rock numbers that summon visions of stage dives, but by far where Citizen truly shine is on the slower, more draining pieces – see the one-two punch of 'Sleep' and 'How Does It Feel?'.

On that note, "draining" is how you'd likely sum up the album in a single word. It can be almost overwhelming at times the sheer angst held within 'Youth's words – that they're delivered with as much gravity and as visceral as they are adds weight to the record's lyrical content beyond a superficial level. The chill in the air when Kerekes confesses, “I should have crashed the car / the night I drove alone” is palpable; albeit there are moments where the melodramatic takes over.

Put plainly, 'Youth' sounds like a band that have poured every ounce of themselves into the writing and recording process. It's a melodic, exhausting album best experienced in its entirety, but each track stands proudly as singular pieces of work. Some bands don't progress this impressively throughout entire careers. That Citizen have evolved enough in such a short period of time and at such a young age to craft a record like 'Youth' is something that deserves an immense amount of credit.

1. Roam the Room

2. Figure You Out

3. The Summer

4. Sleep

5. How Does It Feel?

6. The Night I Drove Alone

7. Speaking With a Ghost

8. Your Head Got Misplaced

9. Sick and Impatient

10. Drawn Out

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