Young the Giant's 'Home of the Strange'
Young the Giant's sound is a cultivated taste. There are subtleties to their lyrics and their melodies that you will only hear when you really need to, unknowing of this need. I know that sounds like an apology of sorts, but it isn't. I say this because in 2011 I serendipitously stumbled onto Cough Syrup while battling flu, last semester ennui, and being at the crossroads of graduation, all at the same time. And just last week, after months of neither Taylor Swift’s pop or Snarky Puppy’s jazz being able to satiate my restless brain and heart, I lazily logged into Apple Music after the iOS update and realised that Young the Giant's third album was out. I immediately pressed play, and only then did I realise that this, and only this band and this album, could satisfy a mind that seemed unknowingly affected by a heightened sense of unbelonging.
This is a fan's perspective, but with each album that they've cut, the band only shows a clear growth graph, an observation which would have otherwise eluded the non-experts.
'Home of the Strange' sticks true to their rock roots (from their eponymous debut in 2011), but lyrics-wise finally owns the band’s immigrant experience— an inevitability perhaps given the present political landscape of the United States. The Orange County quintet is after all made up of a first generation Indian immigrant (lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia), a Canadian origin drummer (Fancois Comtois), a guitarist from England (Jake Tilley), a bassist of Persian descent (Payam Doostzadeh) and another guitarist who is half Italian and half Jewish (Eric Cannata).
The first two tracks are the singles that the band released a few months before the album came out sometime in the beginning of August. The name of opening track Amerika is inspired by existentialist Franz Kafka's last unfinished novel of the same name, which also captures a young immigrant's bizarre experiences in America, told in a very stripped down, rationalist way making it absurd to the extent of being funny. For a fan, this probably makes Gadhia just that much more worthy of adulation and love. (A musician wearing his love for literature on his sleeve? Yes please, give me more!) Capturing the sense of The American Dream in every '90s immigrant to the United States, Gadhia starts off with "And so I've arrived/With gold in my eyes," in his fluid voice, that just about hides a rasp that never actually manifests.
The second song, Something to Believe In only takes this confusion of experience and belonging forward. "It gets old when you talk to the sun/In a tongue understood by no one." The next few songs seem a little confused in the larger narrative of 'Home of the Strange', but I immediately fell in love with the rainy, beautifully worded Titus Was Born. He was born "under the eye of a storm/Rainwater carried his bed/Around the world and back again." For a listener in India, these words are reminiscent of many a mythology: of new-born babies being floated away to distant places, only to grow up (in their contexts, heroes), just as Titus does too. "Tall and strong as oak." With Silvertongue, Gadhia has overcome the language problem from ‘Something to Believe In’. He's "got the silver tongue, drives you to delirium." But while he (as many immigrants) has mastered the language of his new land probably better than its speakers themselves have, he's also aware of the Mezcal in his breath: this mastery makes him feel as if he's drugged and drunk. One line from the album that suck with me comes from the slow and melancholic Art Exhibit. Drawing on the experiences of nostalgia, it talks of "the genius of pain". Just— for the lack of a better word— plain genius.
Text by Vangmayi