Young The Giant are good at many things. Offering unique market penetration within the core 16-25 age bracket. Cutting across traditional customer demographics. Tapping into key commercial trends. That sort of thing. In many ways, they're a record company's dream: articulate, enthusiastic, happy to pose with earnest expressions for stylised photographs taken on windswept beaches, and committed to making accessible, straightforward indie rock. There's one problem: the music. It's competently played, and it ticks most of the right boxes on the consumer response questionnaire, but it lacks sparkle. The band's self-titled d'but offers a lot of polite emoting, but relatively little inspiration.
The best practitioners of the sort of slick, emotionally engaged, crowd-pleasing guitar music Young The Giant favour have something which differentiates them from the crowd; some distinctive quirk or particular talent. Coldplay have a gift for melody, and Chris Martin's vulnerable vocals. U2 have The Edge's shimmering guitar sound. REM are simply very good at writing memorable songs. Young The Giant have no such trick up their sleeves. Frontman Sameer Gadhia is undistinguished and uncharismatic; his voice has echoes of Martin's, but fails to conjure up the same fragility. The album's opening verse features a wind which 'calls your name', and the lyrics never substantially improve. The band plod along, offering up a series of similar mid-tempo numbers, prioritising restraint above all else. Even when they try for a substantial emotional climax, as at the end of 'God Made Man', it falls flat. The drums clatter, the guitarist works up a sweat, and Gadhia launches into the coda with the I-mean-it-man earnestness typical of bands like his, but the slick production surgically removes any power this conclusion might have, like a vet defanging a venomous snake.
Occasionally the group get restless, and branch out into Vampire Weekend-ish bounce ('I Got') and slow-building balladry ('Islands'). These moments at least add some variation, but the album's high point falls squarely into their favoured mid-tempo-rock template: 'Apartment', the record's opening track, also features its most impressive chorus and vocal. At its best, as on that song, Young The Giant is undeniably effective, like a rock and roll dishwasher or tumble drier.
Young The Giant aren't interested in pushing the envelope. The mere thought of pushing it probably makes them sweat profusely. They don't even want to touch that envelope. This would be fine, if they were especially good at what they do. However, to return to marketing speak for a second, they lack a unique selling point; they have nothing which makes them stand out from the crowd. Their d'but is competent, but nothing more.