Review: Sundara Karma's Album, "Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect"

Updated on January 6, 2017
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Reviews are a pain-free way of combining writing, with what I love (music for eg.), in a way that generates interest.

A Collection of Inclusive, Stadium Directed Rousers

Boasting a handful of follow ups to singles ‘Flame’, ‘She Said’ and ‘A Young Understanding’, UK indie rock band Sundara Karma's debut album ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’ is a collection of inclusive, stadium directed rousers. The Reading, Berkshire quartet truly possess and take charge of their first full length LP.

Despite certain songs on the back end of the release resembling each other structurally, Sundara Karma succeed in carving out a sound for themselves and cementing their overall vision. Alongside guitarist Ally Baty, bass guitarist Dom Cordell and drummer Haydn Evans, frontman Oscar Lulu contributes a range of layered and varied vocal performances.

Contagious Refrains and Empowered Riffs

An unceremonious type of approachability surrounds the quartet on the new record. Although it may very well disappear on future Sundara Karma albums, the boys' grounded, guy-next-door disposition should prove popular with listeners this time around. It opposes the spoilt, entitled rockstar posturing some of the group's contemporaries employ.

A variety of contagious refrains, empowered riffs and scenic, expressive guitar licks enrich the LP. They’re crucial because they understatedly propel songs like ‘Deep Relief’, ‘Olympia’ and ‘Be Nobody’ to excellence.

‘Flame’ repackages weighty issues like consumerism and modern society’s overexposure to celebrity culture in sparky melodic arcs and radio-ready hooks. Like several other songs on ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’, ‘Happy Family’ demands the company of others in order to fully enjoy it.

Photo: Daniel Romani
Photo: Daniel Romani

The Springsteen Sprinkled "Olympia"

The previously-released ‘Loveblood’ is a defining track for any band to unleash upon the world. Preceding the Springsteen sprinkled ‘Olympia’ and only slightly edging out the lively, animated ‘She Said’, ’Loveblood’ is a no holds barred standout. Its a blast to listen to. Its surging chorus whips up a surplus of heat, and its attack cranks open the ears.

Generally speaking, the handful of songs on the opening end of ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’ press ahead in the spirit of ‘Loveblood’ - they're equally as attention grabbing. While in comparison, the latter side of tracklisting mellows out ever so slightly. The album doesn’t suffer because of this though. Sounding gutsy and full force, Lulu’s presence is commanding on ‘Lose The Feeling’. The song’s lyrics interestingly describe a restless search for spiritual enlightenment and deeper meaning within every day life.

An Ode to "Vivienne"

‘Deep Relief’ is a speedy toe-tapper. Its drifting, wholesome melodies are easy to get wrapped up in. The pining guitar touches that linger within the tune’s background supply it with deep atmosphere.

Originally recorded for the band’s second EP in 2015, ‘Vivienne’ is a ode to a girl of the same name. After a stylistically intense intro, ‘Vivienne’ makes use of another undeniably addictive guitar phase. Fuelled by his love for Vivienne, and willing to give up everything to be with her, Lulu sings longingly about their drug-fuelled relationship. He’s heard confessionally crooning, “like a child I cry, kiss it all goodbye. Though I've grown, I'm a mess”.

Photo: adamburzynski@Flickr
Photo: adamburzynski@Flickr
Photo: Chris Troncoza
Photo: Chris Troncoza

Escaping the Demands of the World

There’s a wild romance to the expansive, grand-scale highlight ‘Be Nobody’, which depicts two lovers escaping the demands of the world with one another. Underpinning the tune’s swirling instrumental, a pained, feral and drawn out guitar performance communicates an ongoing sense of turmoil. Accompanied by Lulu’s vehement vocals, the song seethes. ‘Be Nobody’ has a rising, momentous quality to it, as if the track itself is trying to contain a storm. The band’s vocals sound almost hymn-like during the song’s chorus.

The plain-sailing melodies of ‘Watching From Great Heights’ unfurl over a rugged, sweeping and unobstructed charge. Nothing about the tune feels off limits. That said, the melodic design of ‘Watching From Great Heights’ isn’t too dissimilar to that of ‘The Night’. Included on Sundara Karma’s first EP, ‘The Night’ is a highlight. There’s enduring appeal in the tune’s main riff and free-flowing, loosely sung chorus. Lulu’s lead vocal quickly pushes to the forefront of ‘The Night’. Offering a taste of something other-dimensional, the frontman’s performance gives it an edge. He effortlessly lifts the tune up and away from the ordinary.

Verdict: ******** 8/10

Pictured: Oscar Lulu
Pictured: Oscar Lulu
Photo: Daniel Gray
Photo: Daniel Gray


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