The Young Republic – Balletesque

impossible to decipher in a single sitting.

impossible to decipher in a single sitting.


Where to begin? I won’t bother listing all the influences I think this lot sound like because they’ve done it for me. According to the myspace profile, they’re picking inspiration from  “Armstrong, Dylan, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Starr, Waits, Young, Mingus, Mozart, Bach, White, Tweedy, Cline, Verlaine, Twain, Bourdain, Calloway, Ellington, Crosby, De La Rocha, Sinatra, Berlioz, Stravinsky, Adams, Lincoln, Brando, The Carters, Williams, Cash, Yoakam, Reed, Leithauser, Casablanca, Casablancas, Simo, Kelly, Welch, Fitzgerald… off the top of the head” and all I’ve got to add to that is they seem to have thrown all of those influences into this album. In fact, most of them can be found somewhere within the song The Alchemist alone, which opens the album proper after a little intro. The Alchemist is exhausting! It begins as a cross between Weezer and Yes, then runs into a Franz Ferdinand style, stop you in your tracks, infectious pop hook moments before some strings appear out of nowhere, an extra voice comes hurtling in from behind you, drums crash, guitars wail, strings howl and CHRIST!  We’re only a minute and a half in! The song careens around all over the place like a bus in trouble and when it’s over you feel like you’ve listened to an entire album, never mind a single song. Like I said, it’s exhausting. It’s also pretty damned impressive. The song covers about 5 different genres of music and there aren’t many bands out there who are prepared to cover that amount of territory in their entire careers! Black Duck Blues is thankfully somewhat simpler, heading for a blues/country rock crossover that’s just about sleazy enough to get your shit kicking feet stomping. Napoleon Roses is a lovely little pop song that bounces along on a simple dum dum tempo but it throws some screeching violins over the top to add a touch of class. I tell you, there’s so much going on in this album that you’re never really sure of what to expect next. In fact, you spend half the time wondering if you actually heard what you thought you did; the arrangements are delightfully bizarre. I know there’s a tuba in Sam Clemens somewhere but was that a clarinet I heard in there too? Should that violin work as well as it does in Balletesque sitting next to that guitar solo? And just what in God’s name is going on in Bows In Your Arms? In fact, don’t bother to tell me, I’ll just listen to it again.

Balletesque is an album that is impossible to decipher in a single sitting. I’ve not heard an album that confounds expectation so much from one track to another in a long time. The album takes so many left turns it spins you round in circles. Eventually, it all kind of falls into place and you’ll begin to get a grip on the style and sound of The Young Republic and by then you’ll be hooked.

We often call for bands to create music that’s more than the sum of its parts. I’m delighted to say that The Young Republic have risen to meet that challenge head on and succeeded admirably. The individual parts of this album really shouldn’t add up to anything comprehensible and yet they do, which suggests we have a group of immense talent at work here. Balletesque is an intelligent, baffling, confusing record, as enchanting as it is bewildering and one that I simply urge you to take a chance on.

This could be the most rewarding album of the year. It’s certainly one of the most tightly packed.