'Deaths' is an album focused on endings. The last in a trilogy of records from London DIY outfit Sauna Youth, 'Deaths' is punchy and economical, written under the pressure of looming deadlines. But even then, it doesn’t abandon the literary and experimental sensibilities developed on the band’s previous records.
Sauna Youth (whose line up also doubles as the band Monotony) are committed to a kind of post-punk realism. The accomplishment here is the way that the band transports the urgency of that commitment from a live setting to the Bandcamp Mp3 purgatory that we all know and love.
The band spare us the “stop looking at your phone”-style punk didacticism, opting, thankfully, for a more understated political tangibility. The frenetic opening track 'Percentages' is an unpretentious social commentary about the flattening conclusiveness of statistics. 'Unreal City' is a catchy pogo tune that tackles urban drudgery and – in a surprisingly rousing moment – urges the listener to “make demands.”
The album refers back to the conditions of its own production: job market precarity, manic city life, everyday political conflict. 'Leisure Time' deals with these conditions head-on through a grinding guitar loop and shouty, nursery rhyme vocal arrangement that confronts the misery of creative labour.
'No Personal Space' is a melodic standout piece with a clamouring final breakdown. Short, last minute experimental excursions like this dot the album, evoking the band’s live performance in isolated doses. 'Swerve' and 'The Patio', two spoken word extracts from a brilliantly morbid short story, work on a similar contradiction, wringing out the shaky, unexpected feeling of a good house show. An airy choral sustain gives the albums its affecting closing sequence – another strange and compelling moment that emerges at final collapse.
Endings abound on 'Deaths' – let’s hope that Sauna Youth isn’t checking out anytime soon.
Words: Josh Gabert-Doyon
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