Yung have taken the long road to this second full-length. By the time they released their debut, A Youthful Dream, it felt less like a launchpad for the Aarhus four-piece and more like a culmination; of years of touring, of a multi-EP trajectory that began with Alter in 2015, and of a transition from a project chiefly centred around the songwriting of frontman Mikkel Holm Silkjær to something more fully-formed. The upshot is, right when they should have been celebrating the opening of an exciting new chapter, they actually felt burned out. “It wasn’t that we didn’t like A Youthful Dream,” explains Silkjær. “We just weren’t quite proud of it.”
Accordingly, they took some time to gather themselves. “We were pretty worn down from a lot of touring,” says bassist Tobias Guldborg Tarp, “and there was a lot of banging our heads against the wall when it came to trying to write new songs. We had to step back and think about what we wanted to do as a band, and whether it even made sense to continue.” It was far from plain sailing once they eventually did regroup, towards the end of 2016, for more writing sessions; with Silkjær previously the primary songwriter, coming up with tracks that accommodated the polarised tastes of the individual members was a challenge. Guitarist Emil Zethsen takes his melodic cues from Prince and eighties pop; at the other end of the spectrum, drummer Frederik Nybo Veile is an fan of the much heavier likes of Converge, Helmet and Unsane. “It was a struggle,” recalls Zethsen. “The four of us rarely agree on anything.”
Eventually, the breakthrough came. ‘Lust and Learning’ is a fizzing synergy of each of the four’s musical predispositions; chiming guitars from Zethsen, a strutting bassline from Guldborg Tarp and soaring backing vocals on the chorus accompany Silkjær as he spins a wistful tale of small-town inertia. It provided the spark for the sessions that birthed the nine tracks comprising Ongoing Dispute, the first Yung record in nearly five years and a compelling argument for the importance of taking your time. Following on from last September’s ‘Progress’ 7”, the album cleverly melds Silkjær’s penchant for krautrock with Zethsen’s handsome riffery and finds room for all four members to bring their influences to the table; the sweeping punk thrash of ‘Unresolver’, for example, gives way to woozy, reflective closer ‘Friends on Ice’ at the back end of the album, whilst elsewhere, the freewheeling rock and roll of ‘Above Water’ recalls Japandroids, and there’s a moody, post-punk edge to the furious ‘Such a Man’. Underlining everything is the atmospheric spectre of Killing Joke, one of the few bands that all four members of Yung cite as an inspiration.
Silkjær acknowledges that, had it not been for the difficulties the band faced in the wake of A Youthful Dream, Ongoing Dispute might never have been possible. “When I listen to it, I can hear a lot of that tension,” he admits. “It was a time when we were struggling financially, coming back off every tour actually owing people money rather than having made any. I can really hear the frustration that comes with an unstable economy in the songs. It was just a big, dark cloud that was hanging over our heads for a long time. We felt as if things were not going our way, and those feelings really manifest themselves on the record.”
There’s more to the stormy atmosphere that runs through Ongoing Dispute than that, though, as Silkjær can attest. “I did get my own head out of my ass, for a change!” he laughs. “In the past, I’ve always written about me, and my life, and things that affected me, but this time, I started talking more about things that affect everybody. I was thinking about the things that aren’t working in the world; there are songs about those kinds of problematic structures. There’s a song on the album called ‘Dismantled’; we had to dismantle our self-image as a band to move forwards, and I had to dismantle my self-image as a songwriter, too.”
Recorded over two sessions at Dreamland Studio and the tiny, now-defunct Studio One (so-called, Silkjær jokes, because you can only fit one person in at a time) and produced by the band’s regular sound tech Neil Robert Young, Ongoing Dispute is an ode to perseverance, collaboration and triumph over adversity. It represents the dawning of a new era for the band, the one that A Youthful Dream should have, and the title, says Guldborg Tarp, perfectly encapsulates the dynamic that has driven Yung forwards, out from under that black cloud. “Ultimately, that’s what the writing of this record was - an ongoing dispute. We come in to write and we’re referencing completely different bands, but every time we wrap up a song, we’re excited about it. It reflects the lyrical side of the record, too; it’s like the last few years of coping with the world have been an ongoing dispute for us!”
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