*published on 1/3/2017 for State Magazine, – http://state.ie/album-reviews/dams-west-youngish-american *
Drummer Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend stardom has made the bold foray into solo material by unleashing the album Youngish American onto the world. Fellow VW bandmates Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmangli have had relative success in regards to solo efforts, Tomson’s debut is a welcome removal from Vampire Weekend material, and it’s an album that cultivates a more personal approach, a true passion project. Going under the moniker Dams Of The West, Thomson produced the album in Nashville, Tennessee with the assistance of fellow drummer Patrick Carney (The Black Keys). The end result is an almost cathartic hour of sarcasm laden garage-pop tracks.
Sonically, the album doesn’t differ much. Tomson’s instrumental performances are to be admired considering he recorded the majority himself. The album opener ‘Bridges and Tunnels’ is a peppy, rhythmically driven endeavour with an oddly dream like quality rearing its angelic head during the latter verses. Tomson revealed that the bulk of the song writing process emerged from placing himself in front of his childhood piano, an aspect that shines throughout the LP. ‘Polo Grounds’ is an embodiment of this organic growth, the emphatic chords of the ivory keys perform the duty of a solid foundation for the bass and strings to place their bricks and mortar on upon, with Tomsons laid back vocal hooks adding the final decorative touches. The lead single ‘Death Wish’ follows in a similar vein and is a stand out track, undoubtedly the most satisfying lyrically. “Think I’m ready to be a father now, but I want to get some pizza first” is the apotheosis of Tomson’s attempts to screenshot that sheer sense of immaturity he faces as a man in his early thirties, contemplating the next step to take in life. A radio friendly, nostalgia encumbered track with infectiously catchy air.
There are very detrimental aspects to the album, but it does lull in certain points. ‘Tell The Truth’ is quite a toothless attempt at a politically driven anthem, although it is inherently enjoyable the lyrics seem almost clichéd, “tell the truth, keep your word, promise something, then deliver it” In a musical sense the track is beautifully arranged in such a way that your attention is held for the duration, however the lyrics seem utterly lost in an album driven by past personal experiences. ‘The Inerrancy of You and Me’ along with ‘Pretty Good WiFi’ is the closest Tomson flirts to generating something akin to past work with Vampire Weekend, but the differences could not be more distinct. Tomson’s lackadaisical approach to vocal duties and general instrumentation on this record is a far cry from the frenetic pace on past Vampire Weekend efforts.
In summation, Youngish American is an enjoyable but one dimensional solo debut. To really boil it down to its core, it’s fun and easy-going, the type of record you listen to whilst having a coffee or beer with friends.