John Citrone of Folio Weekly Reviews EL CLÁSICO



Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Or maybe since I’m now limited to one column a month, I’m more selective about which artists to review. But I’ve been checking out some really cool local bands lately, much to my own surprise. Case in point this month: The Young Step.

I will preface this by saying that I didn’t expect much from the St. Augustine band. I never expect much from any local artist, which is likely why I’m so astonished when I’m blown away by the really good ones. Couple that with the fact that I spent this past week trying to craft a suitable memorial piece for murdered artist and friend Jordie Hudson (who lived and worked in St. Augustine), and I was in no mood to be nice.

But holy shitballs, The Young Step blew me away. And not in the way you might think. This is not elaborate, challenging compositional music. There are no odd time signatures, no overt intellectualism. And it’s not angry punk or throbbing black metal, either. It’s not even out-there avant garde. It is, for lack of a better, simpler term, modern power pop.

The Young Step’s new CD, El Clasico, opens with the driving gut-punch of “Baby, You Know.” The only lyrics in this 2:37 slice of grungy-pop? “You know, you know, you know, baby.” And this thing rocks. It’s thick, pounding, pulsing four-on-the-floor rock-and/or-roll. Nasty slide guitars bolster the fat, octaver riffage. There’s even a cut-time, near-doomy coda. Damn, this is good.

Track two, “Nature Man,” is what might happen if Talking Heads and Crash Test Dummies went camping together. Singer Ben Whitson’s baritone is lifted by Lauren Gilliam’s lilt. A goofy whistled melody line complements the whole affair. And here, again, is another simple, visceral pop pleasure. This stuff is a joy to hear.

“Yoga” is another song that capitalizes on the dual vocal attack. Gilliam sounds lovely in the way Skye Edwards sounds lovely with her work in Morcheeba. “When I Was Young” goes full-on sludge-pop, with Whitson singing big and loud and echo-y over a slamming, repetitive, low-end riff. There’s a funky mid-song break with, yes, more male-female vocalizing, too.

I could go song by song through this entire review, but you get the picture. This is giddy, fun, sing-alongable pop, the kind you don’t need to think too hard about. Better to feel it, if you catch my drift. The core band – Whitson, Lauren, and Micha Gilliam – bring in friends for much of the recording, which was completed at The Goondocks in St. Augustine. A visit to their Facebook page reveals a band that seems to get along well, a union based in friendship as much as a love of the music they make together. And it shows.

Blend all of this with the most awesome of all album covers – a colorful rendering of a perturbed gamecock – and you’ve got yourself a keeper. (The band is probably unaware of the Pavement EP cover Watery, Domesticthat looks hauntingly similar. The fact that Pavement in turn stole that cover image from the 1970 eponymously titled album by Ambergris makes this poultry portrait-rock album connection a bit arcane.) The back cover, vaguely reminiscent of the Beatles Revolver, completes the vibe. I love this band and the music they make. Do yourself a favor and check out The Young Step. It brought me out of a deep blue funk. Imagine what it can do for your miserable lives.

PressAndrew Deming