Long Island - infatuation's a nightmare (Album Review)

The maxim "Youth is wasted on the young" is attributable to Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw, who later elaborated, "they're brainless and don't know what they have". That is not quite true; young people do indeed have brains. However true Shaw's original proclamation was, there's a case to be made that this truism doesn't apply to Huddersfield pop rock four-piece Long Island. While the members' ages aren't readily available or even important, the group are less than a year old and approach music-making with adolescent vigour. Their debut album, "infatuation's a nightmare", is guided by the larger-than-life vocals and performances of Rhiannon Stephenson, and is enlivened by guitarist/vocalist Cameron Conner, bassist Paddy Spence-Lewis and drummer Jan van Beem, who gel together nicely. Notably, the group don't try to hide their mainstream-leaning intentions, with pop hooks that stand out thanks to their secret weapon of punchy production that glimmers with clarity and colour. It all culminates in ultra-modern pop, an admirable and utilitarian stratification of twee songs freshly polished for public display, though with an anti-establishment ethos that lifts the tunes from the banal to the surprisingly galvanizing. 

The opening track, "wild nights", is a rumination on juvenile nights of drunken debauchery and the freedom of anarchy. Stephenson delivers bucketloads of attitude in her provocative swears and hedonistic philosophy. Yet, at times, it does feel as though Long Island are more bark than bite. They tease with inventive variations on the classic electronic pop rock yet only reach truly memorable moments when they let their guard down, forget about the audience, and let their love of battery-powered performances have free reign, like on the infectious single "blissful satisfaction", which flirts with disco grooves, and "so good", the trendy innocence of which emanates a radio-friendliness. While the group can sometimes verge onto blandness ("staring at the ceiling", "better off"), the nine songs offer more enjoyment than fatigue and never repeat themselves, instead switching between moods and styles. For example, "hurts like you" brings a rockier sentiment with power chords and distorted guitar tones, balancing it with ambient electronica, like brushstrokes of sound on a canvas of silence that comes from the notes between the notes. 

The album highlight, "my fault", candidly muses on the struggles of attachment theory. An anxious/avoidant attachment style, as the narrator here alludes to ("'cus I'm so damn insecure, I can't get close to anyone"), makes forming a healthy romantic relationship challenging. The duetting vocals give the song a narrative framework as it builds to epic and spacious proportions. More than any other track here, "my fault" displays the group's ability to form relatable and emotional songs while not taking their foot off the pedal.

There are many things to admire about Long Island; their attitude, production, and heartfelt songs make lasting impressions, and one can hear their passion's unique potential. While "infatuation's a nightmare" might occasionally suffer from overconfidence, there are times when that confidence is very much earned, rubbing off on the listener in a way true art can.