On 29 March, Berlin via Manchester outfit The Underground Youth will be releasing their ninth album, Montage Images of Lust & Fear, on Fuzz Club Records and has been deemed as their most sincere work in an extensive, decade-long discography from which they’ve picked up a cult following across the globe – made evident in their millions of YouTube streams and relentless international touring. In support of the new album, and keeping to their prodigious work ethic, the band have also announced details of a mammoth tour across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia that’ll see them visit 25 different countries.
The album is recorded live, a first for the band, and the depth of the lyrical subject matter make it an astounding piece. Six of the nine songs feature the additional lap steel guitar of Kristof Hahn (Swans). Talking about the album, Craig explains “Montage Images of Lust & Fear is inspired by the succession of experiences we are increasingly dealt by the media. Sex, violence, love, suspicion, desire, distress, etc. The album acts as a montage itself, the subject of each song dealing with an aspect of either lust or fear. Like flicking through the channels on a television. Until in the end you are overcome by white noise. Static.”
Since the release of their aptly-titled eighth full-length, What Kind Of Dystopian Hellhole Is This?, in February 2017, the band have set out on four UK/European tours clocking in at over 100 shows. If all that time touring has taught the band anything, it’s how to work together as a collective and Montage Images Of Lust & Fear is all the better for it – the first The Underground Youth record with all the band members involved in the writing. “Unlike previous albums in which I’ve written the tracks and taken them into the studio to record with or without the band, this record is the product of us all working on the music and arranging the songs together,” Craig explains: “We recorded the album live with the four of us playing in the same small room and with our guitarist Leo as producer, running back and forth from the mixing desk to the live room. As a result, the recording perfectly captures the raw intensity of our live performance, something we’ve never done before.”
Opening with ‘Sins’ they waste no time getting to the crux of things, with a haunting introduction that could have come straight out of a ghost town. When the tempo is ramped up the subtle nuances come into their own and a dark shadow haunts the overall upbeat countenance. Craig’s vocals are distinctly Nick Cave esq in parts. ‘Last Exit to Nowhere’ offers guitar fuelled persistence before ‘The Death of the Author’ with smashing glass, a pounding bass line and vocals which alternate between morose and impassioned to macabre screams is a piece straight out of Alan Vega’s songbook. ‘This Is But a Dream’ pays tribute to the live element of the recording with a protracted start that only heightens anticipation. We’re not disappointed with a track that TUY in all the right ways, taken elements of tracks from other elements and reinventing them to create something new yet oddly familiar.
‘Too Innocent to be True’ is the first of two solemn ballads on the albums and provide a reprieve from the preceding intensity. Craig has always been partial to this type of track, just look at his previous albums for the evidence, so this type of no surprise and it is only in their unique way that TUY can go from post punk to ballad in the blink of an eye. ‘Blind’ returns to what they do best, with haunting guitar segments slicing through the more prevalent riffs. Punctuated by sounds created both literally and through onomatopoeia this track channels The Birthday Party and Suicide in all the right ways. ‘Blind II’ is an instantly more intense track with a chaotic opening that gives way to a motorik beat that drives a guitar frenzy. This is the type of track that sees crowds lapping them up live and it’s certain to be enjoyed in the same way soon. It’s almost a remix of their own track which is both ingenious and very brave and the addition of lyrics of the LP’s title is a nice touch. ‘I Can’t Resist’ and ‘This Anaesthetised’ tie off the album in two different ways, the first offers up a mix of Western infused psychedelia whereas the latter swoons the album to a close in true TUY ballad style.
TUY have under gone some changes over the years, with a fluctuating line up and a hearty recorded work output. This is without doubt their strongest offering to date and perfectly accentuates how far they have come and marks their future intent all at the same time.