Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
It's not an overstatement to say that International was a huge step forward for Lust for Youth: As Hannes Norrvide's solo project became a trio, his introspection moved from underneath headphones onto the dancefloor. The moves Norrvide and company make on Compassion are smaller, but just as significant. Having found a niche within euphoric dance music and goth brooding, this time Lust for Youth look inward in a way that could have only happened after making International.
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Compassion is Lust For Youth's fourth album for Sacred Bones, but only their second as a trio. The earlier work of Hannes Norrvide as a solo artist under the moniker is oblique, scruffy and texturally unique. The influences of '80s synth bands was always apparent, but with the addition of Loke Rahbek and Malthe Fisher to the lineup, they have added layers and complexities to LFY's sound, bringing a clarity that moved the band much closer to their idols.
The best thing Hannes Norrvide could have done in order to push his solo project, Lust For Youth, forward would have been to enlist other people to help broaden the sound. And that’s exactly what he did - after joining forces with Malthe Fischer and longtime live collaborator Loke Rahbek, Lust For Youth has had an extremely productive output over the last few years. Now we’re given Compassion, released via the ice-cool New York label Sacred Bones, home to Marching Church, Destruction Unit and David Lynch.
On the track “Better Looking Brother”, vocalist Hannes Norrvide performs a part akin to a ringmaster. He announces to the titular sibling that he has a part to play tonight. The soundtrack has that sombre, Depeche Mode-like tone that has made Lust for Youth stand out from similar bands. One senses a reluctance within this fifth album of theirs, but nothing is compromised by its slow approach.
As the electro-pop cog in the Copenhagen scene (where bands actually share members and help each other), Hannes Norrvide’s solo project Lust For Youth has been providing the ice encrusted synth detachment for the collective. There have been attempts to cheer things up a bit, most obviously on 2014’s International, but underneath those pumping beats and uplifting synths, there’s always Norrvide’s monotone delivery acting as a reminder that things aren’t that great. He’s the paranoid android that keeps Lust For Youth grounded.
While on a surface level it’s tempting to view Lust For Youth as another European new wave revivalist group, a deeper look reveals them as a piece of a larger cultural movement. Originally conceived as a solo project of Swedish artist Hannes Norrvide (including collaborations with Amanda Eriksson), Lust For Youth represented a beacon at the forefront of the rising Copenhagen scene. Alongside friends like Iceage, Lower, Puce Mary, and Damien Dubrovnik, the group helped to foster a scene that encompassed genres such as post-punk, experimental noise, ambient, and house.
Go back to Hannes Norrvide’s earliest solo recordings as Lust For Youth and listen closely. Trapped underneath the droning synths, morose vocals and grainy production, you’ll find some big melodies fighting to reach the surface. Over the course of a string of full-lengths, singles and cassettes, he’s worked steadily to clean up and refine his sound.
While Denmark’s musical reputation is still largely defined – and tainted – by Whigfield and Aqua, it’s actually the home to a range of diverse bands worthy of serious attention. Copenhagen’s Lust For Youth are one of them, though brains of the outfit Hannes Norrvide originally hails from Sweden. Compassion is the trio’s second album, and its eight songs straddle the line between the past and the present, between melancholy gloom and euphoric dance music.
On previous LP ‘International’, Lust For Youth re-emerged with a new lease of life. Whilst maintaining a sense of the cloudy darkness that underpinned Hannes Norrvide’s earlier solo work through the guise, the expanded three-piece presented an album of questions and of potential. Free of previous claustrophobia, they teased at a dark take on pop that, perhaps intentionally, was yet to feel fully realised – a reluctant middle ground of teetering style and ideas.
Hannes Norrvide continues to blur the lines between opulent synth pop and passive detachment on his latest, Compassion. The Swedish producer and writer behind Lust for Youth had always been seduced with dance music as a vehicle for the alienated and disaffected, somehow obscuring any semblance of an ebullient beat to emphasize a more ruthless affection for low-lit atmospherics. But at some point Norrvide decided it was okay to extend his scope further, and it wouldn’t be as radical of a change considering the foundation for a more congenial sound was there since the beginning.
Better Looking Brother, Compassion’s marathon lead single and standout moment, represents both the quintessential Lust For Youth track and a first step into new territory. It’s the triumphant realisation of the shadowy, downbeat synthpop Hannes Norrvide has been working towards since his lo-fi bedroom recordings, weaving his trademark one-finger riffs and propulsive drum machine hits into a nuanced and atmospheric number that – despite featuring bongo drums – sounds chilly enough to make your teeth rattle. It’s also something more: stretching beyond the seven-minute mark and punctuated with dramatic breaks and siren noises, it’s a concerted move towards the dance floor.
On Compassion, Lust for Youth sound a lot like Depeche Mode. Between the slightly flat voice of lead singer Hannes Norrvide and the synth sounds directly out of the '80s, the similarity is almost jarring.That's not to say it's not well-produced and enjoyable pop music. The group clearly know how to make a hit; "Better Looking Brother" is a single that stands out from the rest of the album in its intricacy and the effectiveness of its hook, its dynamism hinting at a range that could have been reached in other parts of the album if songs took more time to develop.
Over the past five or six years we have seen a proliferation of stylish, sonically innovative bands from Denmark building adoring fan bases over here. Iceage, First Hate, Communions, and Damien Dubrovnik (Christian Stadsgaard and Lust For Youth's Loke Rahbek) have all found widespread appeal outside of Denmark. With Lust For Youth's latest album, the trio from Copenhagen have firmly positioned themselves at the top of the pile.