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Woahnows - Young and Cool (Album Review)

Wednesday, 06 March 2019 Written by Huw Baines

‘Young and Cool’, the new LP by indie-punks Woahnows, has a title that suggests a knowing smirk. But its contents tell a different story. Far from being a glib, tossed-off exercise in self-deprecation, this is a heartfelt, devilishly addictive piece of work that pushes for inclusivity and kindness.

The trio’s earlier rough edges are still present and correct but frontperson Tim Rowing-Parker has also zeroed in on the pop side of their writing, and the vast majority of songs here are buzzing balls of excitement tethered to clever, winsome hooks.

There is joy to be found in the construction of the language and melodies—good luck shifting Skin Peels’ tongue twister “if you need a reason to leave that makes two of us, that makes you and me” from your brain—and the slashing guitars are bolstered by a busy rhythm section.

That song also displays Rowing-Parker’s sharp eye for detail in sketching one of the record’s key themes: empowerment through self-acceptance. “I don't feel like a boy or a girl, I'm just me, somewhere in between,” they said pre-release. “I like that.”

Another of the LP’s stated aims is also to retrofit classic power-pop songwriting with lyrics that don’t give off an air of one-note heteronormative sleaze. To do so, Woahnows first had to write a set of songs that could hang with bands like the Exploding Hearts, which they’ve managed to do without serving up a facsimile of their pinball energy and trebly guitar lines.

‘Young and Cool’ is more a refinement of elements that were already kicking around in Woahnows' toolbox, with Rowing-Parker happier leading things vocally. There are several moments here where they lift a song up a couple of notches simply through a smart melodic feint or quirky intonation, with No One Else exemplifying this particularly nicely. “Come on, yeah, let’s change the world,” Rowing-Parker spits in a drawled bro voice. “Just as soon as soon as we’re done hi-hitting on girls.”

Woahnows are among a bustling group of British bands turning in fine, socially conscious twists on pop music, fusing the rebel heart of Paul Heaton’s writing with Superchunk’s fizzing energy and sense of camaraderie. As a blueprint, ‘Young and Cool’ suggests a very bright future.

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