Published Nov 02, 2016Play a song from the debut album by Oklahoma group Fossil Youth and it'll be hard to tell if it belongs to them or one of the other dozens of participants in this woefully overdone style of emo-minded alt-rock. While many bands have performed it admirably — with debuts by Citizen, Have Mercy and Seahaven coming to mind — it has, by now, become worn out, and many of the cohort's members from just a few years ago have sensibly moved on to more creative territory.
Fossil Youth, meanwhile, are doing a mediocre job in a niche that has already been occupied ad nauseum for years and years. The band says the album "will bring a sense of apathy to the listener," which is probably not the description they meant, but it turns out to be pretty apt. A Glimpse of Self Joy is competently written and performed, but its main characteristic is tonal uniformity, cut from the same cloth of their peers before them: the half-dirty, Pentimento-style guitar tone; the solemn major-seventh power chords; the weepy upper-fret leads, the anxious assertions from the boyish tenor at the microphone. There are melodies that lead nowhere, riffs that add nothing.
For emotion-focused bands like this, lyrics can either be a sturdy spine or an Achilles heel, and the lyrics on A Glimpse of Self Joy are either embarrassingly clichéd ("The grass is always greener where I will never be"), or just flatly bad ("Like the blades of grass in my backyard, I'll surely cut you in two" or "Your skin like a castle, and I want in").
Fossil Youth's album isn't terrible. "Watercolor Daydream" has the kind of chorus an anxious teen yearns for. "Forest Eyes" is a faster, poppy number that'll have kids bouncing around at a show. "Sitting in a Spinning Room" might be an entrancing slow ballad, had it not already been written 1,000 times before. The album's full-bodied sound, courtesy of producer Jay Maas, also does it plenty of favours.
Fossil Youth do what they do well. But what they do is so generic and derivative that it's hard to ignore. Maybe it's time to throw this last stick onto the overflowing pile and set the whole thing aflame. (Take This to Heart)