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Monday, May 16, 2011

Young Widows @ Cactus Club

May 15, 2011

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On their first two albums (2006's Settle Down City and 2008's Old Wounds), Young Widows proudly wore their influences on their collective sleeve. The Louisville, Ky., veterans drew liberally from such seminal bands as the Jesus Lizard, Helmet and the Melvins, but they approached such touchstones with the raucous energy of the former hardcore punks they were. Combining this reverence for the past with an enthusiasm often seen only in younger acts, the band was able to create a refreshingly muscular and aggressive sound. If the band was post-hardcore—a tag frequently pinned on them in reviews—the emphasis was on the “hardcore,” not the “post.”

The band's most recent album, this year's In and Out of Youth and Lightness, finds Young Widows becoming more of a straight-up rock 'n' roll band, and it was this sound that the band showcased before a small but passionate crowd at the Cactus Club Sunday night. On In and Out of Youth and Lightness, the band moves into more atmospheric territory, with vocalist/guitarist Evan Patterson playing with spacing and vocal tones to create a downcast, morose sound that attempts to capture the complexities of getting older.

The new material works quite well on record, but the nuances of Young Widows' latest batch of songs got lost in the live setting. Most glaringly, Patterson's vocals were buried far too low in the mix. In and Out of Youth and Lightness is a vocal-driven album, with Patterson's Nick Cavesque vocals pushing the trio in new directions. Absent this important component, the band seemed remarkably tame, as songs began and ended without showing any real distinct personality.

Thankfully, the band ended their set with the bracing “Old Skin,” a standout track from Old Wounds. Driven by bassist Nick Thieneman's pulverizing bass line, the song reminded the audience of the power that Young Widows still possess. One hopes that the band will recapture that aesthetic as they move forward. The world of 21st-century indie-rock doesn't need another band turning its back on primal aggression to explore its sensitive side.
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