With their first full-length release from 2007, Our Future Is History, Long Island alternative band Black Suit Youth places themselves into a place that lies somewhere between Rise Against and Foo Fighters. The Rise Against comparison comes from the band’s songwriting style, which sticks with fairly heavy guitar riffs (but not so heavy that it goes into hardcore or metal) and rapid, driving drums and bass. Singer Bryan Maher’s voice is a deep and rich baritone and as he belts out his notes, it is reminiscent of Foo Fighters’ singer Dave Grohl, hence that comparison.
All this, unfortunately, leaves the band feeling derivative but still enjoyable. The simple fact here is that, while the band has some good lyrics and some hefty guitar work, there’s not really a terribly strong sense of personality here. The main impression one gets is that Black Suit Youth, formerly known as The New York Dynamite, still hasn’t quite found themselves – despite the name change. Sure, the music is catchy and without a doubt marketable to alternative radio stations all over the country, but it just doesn’t say “We’re Black Suit Youth, this is our song.” There’s no sense of identity – the band tries very hard to stand out, but at the end of the day, Black Suit Youth’s music won’t leave enough of an impression for the band to stick in the listener’s mind. I’ve listened to the album three times today for this review and, still, none of the songs stick out in my mind.
One pitfall that many bands fall into is thankfully avoided in Our Future Is History – the tendency to write songs that sound too similar. There is a fine amount of variety here. While there may not be any genre-bending between songs to make them really stand apart, they differentiate mainly through diversity of rhythm. However, the band is so hellbent on rocking out that they never take the time to slow down, save for a few select sections. Maybe it’s cliché, but how about a ballad? Maher’s got the vocal cords for it, and writing a ballad doesn’t make anyone a pansy.
This is one band that could benefit from an experimental stage – playing around with different sounds and styles could provide a gateway to finding a real sense of identity. While they could easily get on the radio now, it seems unlikely that anyone serious about music would take them seriously.
P.S. – The album art has to be about the most bizarre I’ve ever seen. It features a slightly pudgy, tattooed dude in black pants, a studded belt and a tucked-in wife beater, with cheetah’s heads for his man boobs that are spitting lightning while his face is blurred and some kind of cherub dances on his shoulder while he’s standing in a field at sunset. Yeah, weird.