A fitting collection of songs for a self-titled album.
Vicky Greer
12:33 30th August 2022

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Go online, and it feels like YUNGBLUD is an easy target for anyone hating on the new generation of rock artists. Throw out a few buzzwords like ‘cringe’ and ‘industry plant’, and you can turn Twitter against anyone. Hell, we’ve been guilty of it ourselves in the past. But when his new self-titled album opens on ‘The Funeral’, it’s hard to remember why he’s had these accusations thrown at him. Move past these preconceptions, and I guarantee you’ll be have a good time.

The first three tracks on the album get proceedings off to an incredibly strong start. ‘The Funeral’ takes Britpop and turns it on its head with a slightly unhinged edge to it. It doesn’t sound like anything he’s put out before, and that’s where YUNGBLUD’s strength lies: in reinventing himself with every record. Then we move swiftly into ‘Tissues’ where...hang on, is that a Cure sample? A quick check of the liner notes confirms that yes, he sampled ‘Close To Me’ in this pop-oriented track. There’s even a bit of synth in this one.

YUNGBLUD’s self-titled is at its strongest when he’s at his most experimental. ‘The Funeral’ and ‘Don’t Feel Like Feeling Sad Today’ take a step away from the abrasive emo-rock that he’s known for and add a fresh new energy to his back catalogue. These songs take us in a more pop direction, without letting go of that ‘alternative’ label. However, he hasn’t let go of that emo-revival sound as ‘Memories’, his collaboration with WILLOW proves. It’s the sound that made him and simultaneously helped to launch the pop-punk resurgence that we hear everywhere these days, and it doesn’t get forgotten here.

There are times when we return to early YUNGBLUD, too. ‘I Cry 2’ takes us back to the days of ‘Polygraph Eyes’ and feature some of his best lyrics (“Everybody online keeps saying I’m not really gay / I’ll start dating men when they go to therapy”), although the vocal distortion and autotune that he employs in the chorus feel unnecessary. Later, ‘Die For A Night’ is reminiscent of those super-depressing lyrics that got us all into YUNGBLUD in the first place.

We therefore have a portrait of YUNGBLUD’s past, present and future sound, a pretty fitting collection of songs for a self-titled album. But where his last album, weird! was memorable all the way through, there are moments where this record falls flat. Tracks ‘Mad’ and ‘Don’t Go’ run out of steam and fail to stand out of the crowd. At times, his lyrics leave too little to listener interpretation and border on edgelord territory (“I don’t wanna like what the cruel kids like / I’d rather burn alive” on Cruel Kids, for example).

The same thing happens on closer ‘The Boy In The Black Dress’. The song begins as a skilled portrait of toxic masculinity when he sings “Masculinity seems to hurt a lot / The first time that you feel it in your jaw”, but finishes up a little bit too on-the-nose with “How I wish that I forgot/ That the boy in the black dress is me”.

All in all, YUNGBLUD’s self-titled album isn’t as strong as his previous releases. When it’s good, he’s at the top of his game, but that doesn’t stop other tracks from losing momentum, and the album could generally do with a little bit of that wildcard energy. Saying that, there are more than enough bangers on here to remind us why YUNGBLUD deserved such a meteoric rise, and why he’s amassed the cult following that he has.

YUNGBLUD arrives 2 September via Polydor.

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Photo: Press