I want music to make my head turn 180 degrees. I want it to short-circuit reality and make colours go all funny. I get a contact high off of music that drops me through a wormhole I can never escape out of, forever leaving me in a different state of mind then I was in before I hit ‘play’. It doesn’t happen with the kind of frequency a music junkie like me wants, so in the daily grind of music blogging, I’m more often chasing the dragon than actually catching it.
Writing about new music gets disheartening when your email inbox is full of bland, uninteresting, uninspired and directionless music, created and shared just as quickly as it takes to set up a Bandcamp account. Each new message is a stark reminder that authenticity of voice and artistic vision is a rare and precious gift. When you find it, you grab hold for dear life.
So when a band like So Young comes along, trafficking a particularly intoxicating and authentically powerful record like Try Me, I’m want to OD on it: obsess and devour. They independently released the record in January, 2015. I’ve only discovered it in the last few weeks, and have listened to it incessantly. You could say I’m making up for lost time, but I emphatically believe that even if I tuned in to the London, ON-based quartet right from the start, I’d be just as hooked, just as passionate about this music all these months later.
Try Me. Is that title a taunt? An invitation? A dare? A plea? A hope? It’s all those and more. It is a terse, concise distillation of So Young vocalist, guitarist, and lyricist Paterson Hodgson’s vital voice. She is self-assured and unshackled from a repressive relationship on “Set You On Fire” (“You took me for granted / And I always came, I always came crawling back to you / And now you feel the same / You’re calling me every day / Well, I don’t need you”); she wears the contents of her heart and soul on the outside with urgency: “I wanna see my name carved into a tree / I want you to display your love publicly / I want everyone to know, to know, to know / You don’t know what it’s like being me / The whole world says ‘You’re ugly, you’re ugly, you’re ugly’” (“Sixteen”); and she knows haters gonna hate, so you gotta do what you gotta do, hit back and hit hard like she does on “Haterz”: “You know I’m gonna moonwalk / All over your soul and over your woes.”
Above all else, though, Paterson Hodgson is human. Together with Chris Martin (lead guitar, backup vocals), Dave Lunman (drums), and Michael Steeves (listed in the liner notes as bassist for Try Me, though the band’s roster currently lists Laurie McColeman on bass) So Young avoids being reduced to, and compartmentalized as, being a female-fronted band or tagged as feminist. They transcend the strictures of gender binary to write and play songs with honesty and openness about humanity. Hodgon’s world view and experience may be filtered by different lenses than mine, but through their performance, the mixture of her vernacular poetry and the emotional weight in the band’s playing, So Young tell stories that relate on a deeply personal level, person to person.
Isn’t that what we’re all doing, grappling with the cosmic contradiction of wanting love and respect, and wanting to not give a fuck at the same time? Hodgson sings of battles versus others and fights we have with ourselves, and sings it from a place of personal truth and experience. It’s not easy “keeping it real” and making music this artistic and brutally beautiful, but so many bands that cross my desk these days seem afraid of a struggle, are unwilling or leery of being vulnerable in public. They’re looking for the path of least resistance. It’s a shame they haven’t realized what So Young seems to understand so well on Try Me: if you want to be potent, if you want to be heard, you have to be vulnerable, you have to be real, and you have to try harder than you’ve ever tried in your life.Tags: So Young