Based in Toledo, OH, Citizen, who has already amassed a good following in the US's Alt-rock and underground punk scene, are ready to take on the world with their post/alt-rock Debut album “Youth”. I think they might do it; its craftsmanship and maturity will set it apart from many of their contemporaries. I was surprised to be taken in by it so easily, and I soon realised they have a talent for musicianship and song crafting that will make those music fans from outside the fold give it a second glance.
The band, consisting of Mat Kerekes – Vocals, Nick Hamm - Guitar, Ryland Oehlers - Guitar, Eric Hamm – Bass and Jake Duhaime on the drums formed in high school in 2009, and released their EP “Young States” in 2012 after signing to run for Cover records earlier in the same year. Not long after that, in 2013, they entered the studios with producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive, Daylight) and have come up with the goods that will attract many who may not usually dabble in this area.
From the opening chords of “Roam The Room” blasting full-on with heavy distortion, I was tempted to roll my eyes and sigh “here we go again” as I prepared to sit through an album sound I’ve heard a thousand times with the same old rhetoric. But within 10 seconds, it becomes apparent that this has a quality that you don’t hear too often. Usually, when bands from the alt-rock scene write songs, in an attempt to come across as tough rocker types, they end up with a handful of songs that sound false and laboured and angsty like a spoilt brat. However, there is the occasional group that comes along and proves to be an exception to the rule. Citizen are one of the latter.
Played at a slow enough tempo where you can actually hear what the lyrics are clear, the album tracks play out with enough thought behind the writing so as to keep your listening ear, and it seems the album is finished too quickly, as is the case with most quality albums. Even the mention of suicide on the track “sleep“, though initially accompanied by a mournful intro, is brought out without the usual accompanying morbidity and death glorification that frankly bores the life out of me.
Rather, it is a song that most people can relate to. After about of sleepless nights, the fatigued attitude comes to the fore and lyrics like” getting sick n tired of the smile that I fake every day” and “ I would love to feel alive again, but I guess that can wait” give the feeling of the old but true cliché - sick n tired of being sick n tired and delivered in a way that seems real. Mats vocals range from quiet and mellow through to hairdryer, and he manages it without sounding strained or too harsh. Some fans have made the comparisons with Kurt Cobain and so on, and he is certainly in the ballpark when he’s on the high end. The screaming vocals, measured and set in occasionally, still have a quality where it fits the music and won’t have you wincing.
The album as a whole is great, but particular highlights are “your head got misplaced”, which has more in common with REM than Nirvana, and “sick and impatient” which is a more alt-rock, verging on pop-rock with a similar vibe reminiscent of Placebo’s tunes when they were decent. “Drawn out” is also a quality tune, but y know, every track on it is really worth playing. Overall, it’s a fine album, and if you think, like me, that this genre isn’t what you’re into, I say give it a spin. It’s certainly well made from whatever end you want to look at it.
Fans of the genre, who like a more hard-core feel, may be tempted to think that it’s bordering too much to the indie rock side. The only real difference is some heavier guitar and layering, but the subject matter is in no way foreign and not that far removed from some of the heavier indie rock bands. It’s a thumbs up for this record, and I look forward to what these guys are going to do in the future.