Is there anyone out there writing more emo-tastic lyrics than Yungblud? The 24-year-old Doncastrian (aka Dominic Harrison) kicks off his self-titled third album with a gleefully mascara-smudging blast of pop-rock, in which he imagines “dancing at my funeral/ Waiting for you to arrive/ I was hoping you’d look beautiful/ Dancing with tears in your eyes/ But nobody came, what a shame, hey…”
Hands up – the headbang-as-you-shop mall-rock sound that Yungblud embraces here has never been my cuppa. The pretty thrash-by-numbers blurs notes like plaid shirts on hangers flipped swiftly along chrome rails, allowing melodies to glide past forgettably. Like the credit-roll track of every teen romcom since the 1990s, delivering enough focus and momentum to ensure you leave the cinema with your jacket, but not enough to linger in your head on the journey home.
Yet Harrison has a knack for narrative and a snagging vocal that lifts potential mediocrity of this vibe into a warmer and more engaging experience. He’s at his best at his most British, when he channels the conversational intimacy of The Streets’ Mike Skinner. “I Cry 2” is a great example of this. It begins with a simple guitar motif and a strong (if hard to catch) story about a character “evidently damaged from your last relationship/ You wanna call her a bitch/ You’ve been holding too many hands so you don’t have to deal with it/ Patch up your loneliness.”
Then there’s a terrific switch from empathy to snappy self-defence as pansexual Yungblud barks: “Everyone online’s saying I’m not really gay/ I’ll start dating men when they go to therapy.” Ha. Neat. “I Cry 2”’s chorus is a chunkier, 21st-century take on Skinner’s most successful single, “Dry Your Eyes”. There are clear echoes of the 2004 track’s beery-eyed chorus (“Dry your eyes mate/ I know it’s hard to take, but her mind has been made up”) in Yungblud’s new one: “It’s alright mate, I cry too…”
Elsewhere, Yungblud shoots for a more stadium-filling effect on the anthem “Sex Not Violence”, complete with big-screen drums and a tongue-on-the-strings snogger of a guitar solo. There are pretty splashes of synth on “Sweet”, as the singer sighs over the state of modern dating culture and yearns for comfort: “See, the thing about these is that I really need to call up my mum…” Alas the other sweetness he craves is heroin, which he hopes he can use casually without falling in love. (Perhaps his label should send him a stack of rock’n’roll obituaries.) “Tissues” bounces off a “Hey Mickey” cheerleader beat.
Hollywood rebel Willow Smith joins Harrison for a heartbroken millennial bicker on “Memories”, while “Cruel Kids” wallows in a refreshingly sloshy electric guitar, as the singer laments taking too many drugs and crashing his “au’oma’ic” – those glottal stops tidily tether him as an English lad unable to navigate the American highway. The white-lines mood is maintained by “Don’t Feel”, which has a Springsteen energy as it describes an individual’s attempt to break away from the limitations of his birthright. Only where Springsteen was “born to run”, Harrison opts to stay in bed instead.
Despite my genre-wariness, Yungblud won me over with this one. LOL. Sadface. Black emoji hearts.