Release Date: Jan 6, 2017
Record label: Sony Music
It feels like we’ve been waiting an age for Sundara Karma to put out an album, such has been their meteoric rise; their opening main stage slot at the summer’s Reading & Leeds festival showing a band already at ease on one of the world’s biggest stages. And ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect’, much of which will already be familiar to their army of fans, has them aiming to right where their anthemic indie belongs - this is a record made for the cavernous expanse of Brixton Academy, fancy light show in tow, chant-a-long choruses guaranteed. Recent single ‘She Said’, while still undoubtedly the record’s standout moment, is something of a curveball when placed in the middle, its textbook-perfect pilfering of 90s Britpop (storytelling, great chorus, smidgen of melancholy) a clever contrast to the rest, which owes much to Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’ era, if not also The National.
Britain quartet Sundara Karma arrive with shimmering guitars and great expectations, delivering a lengthily titled pop treatise on youth in the modern age. Produced by Larry Hibbitt (Hundred Reasons, Nothing But Thieves), Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect introduces the Reading-bred newcomers' warmly anthemic sound and barely earned nostalgia. In frontman Oscar Pollack, the band have a charismatic, if somewhat familiar voice that can ably power these 12 tracks all the way back to the cheap seats, where they seem squarely aimed.
It seems that every year British guitar music is blessed with the “next big thing”, a band that critics determine will be the saviour of a scene that has been sinking for the best part of a decade. Some have risen to the challenge and created fantastic records (Foals), others have seen commercial success but in the process seemingly fulfilled so many of the clichés of the genre that arguably led to its downfall (Catfish and the Bottlemen), and some have failed both critically and commercially (Viva Brother). 2017’s early contender for this potentially unwanted title is Reading’s Sundara Karma.
Looking like rock gods-in-waiting is unlikely to do Berkshire four-piece Sundara Karma much harm, and neither is frontman Oscar Pollock’s androgynous image. It’s a shame, then, that their songs are so much less noteworthy. Their debut album starts brightly enough, the Foals-like Loveblood fizzing with energy and the harmonies of Happy Family’s intro evoking Fleet Foxes.
While other genres shape-shift with the zeitgeist, each year brings one anointed guitar group – a gang of young blokes in leather jackets intent on dragging mid-noughties NME cover stars into the present day. Following Catfish and the Bottlemen and Blossoms, 2017’s leaders of the “real music” revival are Reading’s Sundara Karma. Their music groans with inevitability, with the Killers’ pious preachery, and the chugging earnestness of clean-shaven-era Kings of Leon.
?If you’re sick of the festive tunes that have plauged the population over the last month or so, you can look no further than Sundara Karma’s stadium-ready debut to divert your mind (and ears) elsewhere. Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect doesn't quite match The 1975's I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware Of It in terms of ridiculously long album titles, but the Reading four-piece have taken a good shot at matchin it in terms of hooks. Dubbed a 'band in waiting' by various outlets, Sundara Karma have filled their debut to the brim with hit after hit; it's hard to know where to begin.