Kintsukuroi is a traditional Japanese art form which repairs broken pottery with gold. The philosophy is that damaged things are improved by breakage; putting it back together with something beautiful strengthens it. Whether Dave Le’aupepe (lead singer) broke an expensive vase or the crumbling portion of his personal life was the key, Gang Of Youths have sewn our hearts back together with their resplendent Let Me Be Clear. Life is what you make it and these gentlemen have taken the fractions of mess and created a luminous EP for us to bask in.
In April 2014, Gang Of Youths released their debut album The Positions which became a classic among GOY fans and critics alike. After finishing that record, touring the globe, the eventual breakdown of Le’aupepe’s marriage, the struggle of his ex-wife’s cancer diagnosis, suicidal moments and his ultimate sobriety, Let Me Be Clear collects all the sweet leftovers. Around nine months ago, these songs were written and recorded, it was all in time’s fragile hands before it was handed over to us, the common people. And these six tunes, though not a B-side to The Positions, are dealing with those same demons.
‘A Good Fight’ is a solid opener, a heartfelt piano ballad which could’ve been influenced by James Vincent McMorrow or Bon Iver with delicate notes and a crescendo of strings. Things take a turn when Le’aupepe starts howling about why he ‘needs all this stuff’ and a ‘terrible silence’ and other incomprehensible things, all while punk-ing it out with loud guitar riffs. ‘Native Tongue’ – their first single off the EP – is a soulful jam with it’s vintage distortion and So-Cal surf-town vibe, an indie hit with fans already.
Just as in life, things retrogress for ‘A Sudden Light’ and ‘Still Unbeaten Life’ with both tracks seemingly winding down for a sober affair. Sharing ambient elements and spooky vocals, these songs are sincere and legitimately strong. The two somehow join forces on the EP and go from romantic melancholy to brutal honesty. Famously, The Positions became ‘the album about cancer’ and Let Me Be Clear deals with the themes but not the specifics; loss and grief and desolation and true pain. This EP is not just about the music, it’s about the subject. We’re dealing with real emotions, it sounds phenomenal but it bloody hurts!
It seems as if Gang Of Youths have hit the jackpot, a recipe of success. They’ve found something that works for them and they’re using it to their advantage. Fooling around with the formula of their music (and maybe cooking) perhaps; it’s nourishing and smokey and delectable. And you know it’s a classic GOY release because those heart-wrenching lyrics are back, swearing is peppered throughout and their famous sound is piercing – peppy guitar, light beckoning through the blinds, full bodied brass and steamy string selections.
‘Both Sides Now’ is a Joni Mitchell cover by Le’aupepe and a final punch at that. In case you had any heart left, you certainly won’t after hearing this tear-jerking triumph; just me and my electric guitar breaking your collective hearts. And what a way to be, because in true Gang Of Youths style, by the end of Let Me Be Clear, it feels as if you’ve been through it all together and you’ve come out the other side, holding hands and wiping away that solemn tear. We’re a community of souls, a band of misfits and a gang of youths – taking our broken pieces of existence and sewing ourselves (and each other) together with gold. Bravo.