It is a very bittersweet truth that inspiration can be drawn from the most tempestuous times of our life. It’s hard to recognise that we may be overflowing with poetic sentiments when we are experiencing misery and sufferance. However, lead singer of Sydney based band Gang of Youths, Dave Le’aupepe and rest of the gang managed to forge a cathartic illustration of his part in a four year relationship with a girl suffering stage four cancer. “The Positions” is the debut LP from the band that doesn’t only document the turmoil, the clusterfuck of emotions and the triumphs of the relationship but it does so on an epic, cinematic scale.
Back in February at the coveted Secret Garden festival in my hometown south of Sydney, I remember walking around trying to complete my volunteer shift in an incredibly drunken state and getting legitimate goose-bumps as this band I’d never seen or heard before perform Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”. The memory itself has cemented itself within my brain, yet quite hazily and with many details missing; namely which band it was. However I managed to convince myself it was indeed Gang of Youths, yet I am positive I will never be completely reassured. Whether it was or not, that experience ignited my immediate fascination and adoration for this band. Their earliest singles such as “Evangelists” and “Benevolence Riots” were played to absolute death by yours truly and demanded extremely high expectations for their succeeding releases, though I doubted anything would match the maturity executed in “Benevolence Riots”.
The band has already gained notoriety (with the help of their lengthy ‘Like a Version’) for rather epic and built up ballads, so it comes as no surprise that the first piece on the album is the seven and a half minute “Vital Signs”. This song encapsulates the determination burning inside lead man Le’aupepe- to defy all odds and be with this woman that was dealt a shitty hand. The actual orchestration of it, along with similar track “Poison Drum” it is actually quite magnificent, it is easy for one to imagine themselves sitting front-row of an auditorium, seeing a tribe of orchestral instruments deliver this tune and probably catching beads of sweat dripping from the band. GOY are yet to produce a track without an instrumentation that builds up until they almost burn out. Their ability to balance on the line of explosive yet controlled instrumentations is an astounding feat, reflected in the use of chamber instruments.
At risk of making a very obvious comparison, lyrical and musical influences such as Bruce Springsteen shine through in tracks such as The Diving Bell, whilst hints of The National are reflected in the sombre Kansas. While many of the true meanings behind the lyrics are incredibly melancholic, it is not necessarily displayed in tempo or mood, such as the upbeat shift of Magnolia and the heart-warming feels of Radioface. A cathartic tale of hitting the begrimed level below rock bottom, the song is an apologetic tale on Le’aupepe’s behalf that we all can relate to in some facet. The album is then sorrowfully bound together by “The Overpass”, the finishing piece creates a cyclic and unique experience with yet another over-seven minute ode to the exhausted relationship.
“The Positions” is the most elegant and mature debut LP from a band that is bound for great things. They are definitely one to watch and not take your eyes off!
Written by Alexandra Medd