I’m new to Sauna Youth. Yes I’ve been aware of them by name but quite frankly I’ve just never bothered to give them a chance until Distractions smashed it’s way into my consciousness a few weeks ago. Do I feel a bit silly now? Definitely. Better late than never though. Much, much better late than never.
Distractions is a ferocious punk screamer of an album. It ploughs it’s way through half an hour with a burning intensity that I last heard on Cloud Nothings 2014 album Here and Nowhere Else. There are a couple of moments to come up for air, namely the spoken word tracks ‘Paul’ and ‘(Taking a) Walk’. Otherwise it’s an avalanche of buzzsaw guitar attacks and rifle shot drums. It’s a serious breath of fresh air.
Sauna Youth are a band not afraid to take on one single note and strangle the very last breath out of it. ‘Monotony’, ‘Abstract Notions’ and ‘Creeping’ are perfect examples of this. It sounds like guitar strings getting a chinese burn. Vocals are yelped and howled, often delivered with a sense of urgency, occasionally with an ambivalence that seems to fight against the music. Nothing lasts long on this record, every song feels like a sprint to the finish.
I’m frequently reminded of 90s Kill Rock Star punks The PeeChees throughout this record, especially on the consecutive tracks ‘Cosmos Seeker’, ‘Modern Living’ and ‘Leather’. All three of these tracks tear themselves to shreds with the same abrasive guitar attack that made me fall in love with the PeeChees 20 years ago. I don’t have much higher praise than that.
‘Try to Leave’ changes tact slightly with a little more melody elbowing it’s way into the proceedings and sounding like The Young Knives covering Elastica’s ‘Stutter’. If that doesn’t sound good to you, trust me, it’s better than good. Lyrically the song reflects the mood of discontentment spat out across most of the album, “I tried to leave but I couldn’t think of where to go” sums this up well. “I am nervous, I am anxious, I am nervous I won’t stop” from ‘Modern Living’ is about as accurate a reflection of our hectic lives as I’ve come across.
On the face of it Distractions sounds like a collection of simple enough songs but there’s more scratching away under the surface. In most places there doesn’t seem to be an obvious hook but these songs delve inside your skin and chain themselves to your bones. This is music that will make you want to lose your shit dancing as well as make you think. It’s not unique by any means, there are dozens similar bands pushing out similar music but Sauna Youth have that extra 10% that changes a band from good to brilliant. Don’t let Distractions pass you by. It’s Modern Living.
Sauna Youth’s Distractions is out now on Upset The Rhythm – buy it here (thoroughly recommend the Ltd Coral vinyl if you can get your grubby paws on it)