The Young had every opportunity to push past the psychedelic vibe of debut album Dub Egg by trying for a darker, rockier feel for its second album. Any attempts would have worked had the songs been comprehendible, but the failing blame can be set on singer Hans Zimmerman, who mumbles through 10-tracks with heavy musical backing.
Chrome Cactus is alive, musically. Every song ripples with powerful guitar, drum, and bass combinations. Album opener “Metal Flake” refuses to hold back the heavier tone, which is obvious from the sounds of reverberating guitars and pounding drums. The feel instantly separates The Young from Dub Egg, and the good stuff continues throughout a majority of the album with the presence of all three major instruments. Drummer Ryan Maloney, bassist Lucas Wedow, and guitarists Zimmerman and Kyle Edwards, scale back enough to produce two tracks (“Apaches Throat,” and “Mercy”) comparable to slow jams with electric guitar and bass.
A good vocalist in combination with the bulky background instrumentation would give the outcome intended.
However, the album translates as chaotic and incomprehensible due to Zimmerman’s slurred mumbles. Problems understanding lyrics make it difficult to tell whether The Young is anything more than a band of talented composers. Zimmerman’s voice is so challenging to decipher that the guitar, drum, and bass are put in the spotlight more so than the lyrics. Listeners shouldn’t have to have a song on repeat in order to kinda, sorta get what’s being said. Doing so frustrates even loyal listeners, who had to deal with similar and quieter mumbling in Dub Egg, and prevents any new fans from latching onto the band.
During the rare moments of understandable lyrics, it’s obvious there are messages the band is trying to get across to its listeners, whether it be standard political agenda messages (“Metal Flake”), or messages concerning the struggle of one’s inner demon (“Mercy.”) Despite these meanings, while admirable, the songs are vague and seem to lack the spark needed to propel Chrome Cactus past other rock bands. This blandness is showcased when Zimmerman sings, “Moments never last/they keep changing as I grasp/… I feel pretty good/in the moment/even though I talk it out/I smash my head against the wall,” continuing through the rest of the song in the same lukewarm style.
The song about some messed-up love story, “Apache Throat,” becomes one of the few tracks on the album that stays on topic as it progresses. It begins with Zimmerman wailing, “Every situation plays a thousand times/repeat the ending for me when I say goodbye/I’m noticing that you aren’t the one that I might thought you were/and it’s my fault/I’m to blame for changing you.” Clearly about a relationship that held some significance in the past, this kind of clarity is the factor that propels songs on Chrome Cactus beyond other tracks.
Most other songs aren’t as straightforward as “Apache Throat,” instead becoming muddled and confusing to comprehend. What starts off as bashing on the pretentiousness of the rich and powerful in “Moondog First Quarter,” turns into an exploration of why one feels sinister. Zimmerman is incoherent most of the song, making it difficult to really pinpoint what is being said. Bits and pieces can be heard like, “Split the rich from the high life/…. understanding nothing/except what I’m told,” and the repeating three line chorus, “feel/so sinister.”
Other than small sections of lyrics, the whole of the song is lost, which isn’t the experience The Young intends for listeners.
Zimmerman is a difficult vocalist to hear and understand, that’s evident in Chrome Cactus and it’s pertinent The Young tackle the problem in order to maintain and secure new fans. If its listeners can’t understand what’s being sung, they’re going to get bored and annoyed and find another rock band to obsess over and support. Praise should be spewing out about The Young because Maloney, Wedow, and Edwards know how to use their instruments. They know when the drums should be reverberating over the clashing of guitars and bass, and when to combine the three together to create a sound that says more about the message of the song than the lyrics.
The Young has the potential to be a great rock band. Addressing the issue of clarity, while continuing to allow Maloney, Wedow, and Edwards to play as they do on Chrome Cactus could change the game for The Young.
The Young - Chrome Cactus tracklist:
- “Metal Flake”
- “Cry of Tin”
- “Chrome Jamb”
- “Moondog First Quarter”
- “Apaches Throat”
- “Ramona Cruz”
- “Dressed in Black”
- “Slow Death”
- “Blow the Scum Away”