“Home of the Strange”
Despite the album’s finesse, answers don’t come easily.
By Rebecca Friou, The University of New Orleans
Though Young the Giant once sang that “Life’s too short to even care at all,” ignore their advice for a second and check out their newest release, “Home of the Strange.”
You might be familiar with songs such as “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” but what you may not know is that if there was ever a band that represented the melting pot phenomenon of America, Young The Giant is it.
Check it out: Sameer Gadhia (lead singer) is first generation Indian-American; Jacob Tilley (guitar) is British; Payam Doostzadeh (bass) is first-generation Persian-American; Francois Comtois (drums/vocals) is French-Canadian, and Eric Cannata (guitar/vocals) is Italian-Jewish from New Jersey. With such a diverse band, it’s inevitable that their music would reflect their heterogeneous backgrounds, and throughout their lyrics and sound, the influences ring from South Asia to Quebec.
With a multicultural sound that questions both the concept of political and personal identity, Young The Giant has created a singular presence in the music world.
Released on August 12, “Home of The Strange” introduces its first track, “Amerika,” as the underlying theme of the record.
“Were you looking for someone?
As I watched you go
I am mad because I don’t know what you used me for
Always talkin’ ’bout one day
The song screams scrutiny of the American Dream, questioning its attainability for people with foreign last names. The name and song were both inspired by Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel, “Amerika,” a book in which a German boy flees to America in search of a dream.
Just as the song relates, the child struggles with learning to juggle two identities and finding his place in the world. Gadhia was quoted by “The New York Times” as saying “Our perspective is irreversibly tinged with this rhetoric of the immigrant conscience and guilt. Searching for the ‘American dream’ is to lust for excess, power, and sex. We realize that when we achieve our goals, they often leave us more hollow than before.”
If you haven’t figured it out by now, “Home of The Strange” is a play on the National Anthem. Because of Gadhia’s mixed background, he admits to questioning his place in the world and searching for a happy medium between his nationalities. Consequently, the second track on the album, “Something to Believe In,” stems from conversations with college students about their failures and the flaws within the American Dream.
Students are told to follow the path. Get a degree. Settle down. Work for the rest of their life. However, the song serves a message of learning to forge your own path, even if it isn’t the popular option.
If I were to share some personal favorites, I would recommend checking out “Art Exhibit,” “Jungle Youth” and “Repeat.” With a romantic, fingerpicking intro, “Art Exhibit” exemplifies the native sound of the group as well as ever. Built by drum banging, a subtle ukulele and a delicate crescendo over dreamy vocals, the song proves to be the softer side of the record.
On the contrary, “Jungle Youth” is more of a gung-ho, rock sound that reminds of their first album.
“Everybody’s bathing in Holy Water
Ain’t enough going around”
With its steady beat and evocative lyrics, “Jungle Youth” hints at the band’s rebelliousness. Personally, it reminds me of punk kids and outburst moments—nothing wrong with that though.
Last but not least, “Repeat” is one of those feel-good, hopeful songs that reminds you to not let history repeat itself, but rather to learn from its lessons. “The only times people tend to make big changes,” said Gadhia in a recent interview, “is when they must —when they are faced with something greater than themselves. Things seem bad now with environmental issues, the economy, the job market, but sometimes the best changes come when we are at our lowest.” In other words, not only is their music good—it means something.
In “Repeat,” Young The Giant reintroduces its casual, electric sound.
“Show me love, fill my cup
The world’s not empty
It’s how you want it to be”
As a fan of striking lyrics, I’ve always enjoyed the way the band grasps vexing subjects with the simplest of words. It just goes to show how straightforward things can be if you think them through.
“Home of The Strange” takes time to address a powerful topic, one that is personal for each of the band members.
The album artwork, an image of people walking their individual national flags into an open-mouthed, animal looking mountain, even contributes to the theme. After listening, you’ll feel like you know the guys and their life challenges. So yes, life may be too short to even care at all, but like I said— this is worth caring about.