It’s been said that football is a game of two halves and to pinch that analogy, I’m going to use it to describe the debut long player from Sauna Youth. In what is a rather disconcerting experience, ‘Dreamlands’ is best looked at as an experiment in pushing the boundaries of punk. Not that this hasn’t been done before, take ‘Zen Arcade’ by Husker Du as a perfect example. A sprawling masterpiece which broke all boundaries set up by the old guard and introduced a new way of thinking about punk. Sauna Youth do this on this album, albeit at a much shorter length.
After following a DIY aesthetic and self-releasing their music via cassettes and exclusive 7”s it could almost be with disdain that ‘Dreamlands’ is given to us. In one of the bravest moves ever attempted for a debut album, the first half is taken up by an epic 10 minute track, ‘Town Called Distraction’, which marries a story which perhaps may be about the banality and reality of modern day living to a crashing, colliding avalanche of feedback and music.
Evoking memories of almost namesakes Sonic Youth at their peak with flashes of REM and Husker Du, this song is a mini classic which lulls you into its storm and envelopes you in its cold warmth. It may quite possibly be the best opening track on an album this year and offers a stark response to the mundanity of Obama’s America where everything is settling down to election fever. This is the story of what is like to be a real person with no future…are you listening John Lydon?
After this song the album suddenly turns into a flurry of riffs as the next five songs pass you by within minutes of each other. On first listen this can be disconcerting but with repeated listening it all starts to make sense. Like some release of anger after the opening track, ‘Dreamlands’ becomes your archetypal modern punk album. To dissect the songs is pointless, the idea is to let it seep through your headphones and stir some lost inner emotions of righteousness.
Given time, melodies do come through as on the poppy ‘Psi Girls’ and the neo-classic rock of ‘Viscount Discount’. They show a band who are astute musically and not afraid to have a bit of fun as well. How this will pan out in the live arena is anyone’s guess but it sure will be a blast to the nether regions. In a time where punk has lost its heart and become a national treasure, it is with some fondness that I press play on ‘Dreamlands’ once again. Enjoy it for it’s all too brief time and then play again.
Posted by Martyn Coppack.