Danish post-punk / noise-rock outfit Yung’s sophomore album, ‘Ongoing Dispute’, is a cathartic and explosive experience that brilliantly and frighteningly documents the power struggles of daily life.
The concept album is increasingly becoming a rare specimen in music. Crafting a collection of songs around a single theme is immensely difficult, particularly in an age where life grows increasingly complex and each day comes with a different challenge. To write one requires time and patience, which Danish post-punk / noise-rock quartet Yung gave themselves.
Specifically, five years have passed since their debut record, A Youthful Dream, was released, and they used the time to create an LP that is cathartic and explosive in its sonic fury and biting and frighteningly real in its stories. Ongoing Dispute is a brilliantly-conceived concept album built around the notion of power. Each of the record’s nine songs tells a different story, but in every case there are those who wield authority and those who are the victims. Some of themes Mikkel Holm Silkjær, Tobias Guldborg Tarp, Frederik Nybo Veile, and Emil Zethsen cover are not for the faint of heart. They, however, must be heard because of the lessons they share. These stories are those that occur everyday, whether we are the protagonists or we know someone who is.
The album opens with the gradually surging “Autobiography”. Through the propulsive energy akin Japandroids, Silkjær voice hollers with a purpose, as he tells the tale of a former friend who was too self-absorbed who “never wanted to hear someone else’s story / It just bores you”. Despite his friend’s “strange lack of social skills” and “the friendship you threw away”, all he wanted to hear from him was that he was sorry. Most of the album, however, is not so forgiving.
A psychedelic-country twang permeates through the urgent “Lust and Learning”, on which Silkjær describes how people succumb to the idyllic suburban dream to only realize they’ve grown old and lost their innocence. The melodic yet grueling post-punk epic that is “Progress” takes this idea further. As the guitars hum and the rhythms slowly cascade, Silkjær desperately strives to get ahead in this consumer-driven world. This is not his dream but that of those who have created the society in which he lives. What he truly aspires is to be heard. Is this a sign of failure or is it progress?
“I shouldn’t settle for anything else than long-term success
But it’s hard – Every time I’m taking a step it feels like I’m dragging my feet
I thought my possessions were helping me a great deal on my quest
But they have only been a burden while I’ve had my eyes on the prize, which I will get
I’ve been doing time
But now I see why
It’s merely a sign
A sign of progress”
Momentarily, Yung rebel on the slow-building and harrowing “Dismantled”. “Some people romanticize competition / I merely look at them and laugh”, Silkjær sings with disdain. But as the song builds to its fiery climax, he soon finds himself left behind and the one being laughed at. The joke is on him. A hero, though, emerges on “Above Water”, which is a sheer force of indie-rock awesomeness. A military-like percussion drives the track, and it perfectly complements Silkjær’s politically-charged lyrics. He sings about one young girl taking a stand against the authoritarianism and misogyny that govern her community and country. She is the Joan of Arc who is going to sacrifice herself for the greater good.
“She’s summoned for a lecture on intellect
She’s staying afloat by holding on to her confidence
Eventually they gazed at her in astonishment”
From a hero for all to a despicable man the band turn to on the raging “Such A Man”. As the dual guitars ignite the air with their electricity and rhythms wage war against the air with their thunderous blows, Silkjær’s voice pierces through the sonic storm. He delivers a tale of an archetype, stoic male trying to cope with failure and pain, but he does not know how. Once powerful, now “his face is scarred by shame”, as his marriage crumbles and he’s about to lose his job. The only way he knows how to deal with everything is to inflict harm or, in this case, through “self-inflicted wounds”.
“Hose It Off” is the album’s starkest moment. A dense blackness fills the air with the throbbing rhythms and jolting guitar. Silkjær’s voice is ghostly, and he tells the tale of a sadistic man who preys on the weak. The song’s first four lines say it all.
“That plastic bag is a symbol of
The pain she felt when you took off
Her face is blurred and you’re moving on
You see her pain as nourishment”
The album, though, comes to a dazzling conclusion. Whereas most of the album leaves listeners on the edge of their seats, “Friends on Ice” stuns. Its wistful yet dazzling shoegaze approach emotes feelings of hope and possibility. For Silkjær, that is the hope to see his best friends again, so he can “feel all right again”. In a world where the powerful feast on the weak, there are relationships where power is meaningless. This is the world that Yung strive to live in one day, but first we must know our enemy and understand him. Only then can we move forward and feel whole.
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