2014’s Dereconstructed, until now the most recent of Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires‘ triad of long players, was a raggedy untamed beast of a record, a tenacious aural assault of crunching guitars, impassioned, hard hitting vocals and huge, thumping rock tunes. Fast forward three years and Youth Detention, with its lengthy subtitle Nail My Feet Down To The Southside Of Town (also a track here), maybe isn’t quite so unrelenting, but those powder keg qualities are still there in abundance. The only thing is, when does too much of a good thing become something bordering on overkill? There are 17 tracks on Youth Detention, and part of me wonders whether it may have been preferable to split this into two albums, for I feel that some of the numbers here lose their impact somewhat due to the bulldozer approach of its content. Pick any song at random and you’ll appreciate just how good it is as a standalone item, but listened to as a whole, some of them can’t help but get lost in the ether.
‘Breaking It Down!‘, the opening track here, seems at first to wink knowingly at more modern contemporaries like The Hold Steady‘s earliest work, rather than the classic rock of artists like Free whose world the band seemed previously to inhabit. It suits them, but before long, the retro-glancing is back, as they embrace not only good time rock and roll, but also, surprisingly, punk on the could-have-been-a-Damned-single fury of ‘Good Old Boy‘.
It was no surprise to hear Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood trumpeting the merits of these guys from every rooftop not so long ago, for some of the rowdier tracks here could easily have made one of their Alabaman counterparts’ own albums, probably most notably ‘Had To Laugh‘, right down to the frantic delivery and Southern drawl of Bains himself.
There is little let up in terms of tempo, right up until we reach ‘The Picture Of A Man‘, which further cements the bond with the latter band, as it sounds rather like the kind of heartfelt tearjerker that Jason Isbell would have written during his tenure with them.
All in all, Youth Detention is a fine addition to The Glory Fires’ already impressive canon, neatly encapsulating the very essence of being a passionate music fan on closer ‘Save My Life!‘, Bains quite succinctly demanding “Don’t you tell me it’s only rock and roll, when I’ve seen it wrestle truths for noise“, and he’s right, you know. Music really CAN save your life. I’m pretty sure it saved mine.
Youth Detention (Nail My Feet Down To The Southside Of Town) is out now on Don Giovanni Records.
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