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  • Writer's pictureAmiee Bolger

REVIEW: 'Quarrels,' the new EP from Brighton five-piece Youth Sector

Youth Sector is the most exciting band in the world right now, in my humble opinion. After making them my must-see at Outertown Festival in 2022 halfway through listening to the first song on their second EP, Adult Contemporary, and then having the time of my life dancing to their set, they’ve quickly become a firm favourite in my rotation.

To say I’ve been eagerly awaiting more music from the Brighton five-piece is an understatement. So when Quarrels was finally announced, it felt like Christmas.

Quarrels starts with an absolute bang. Youth Sector is not a band to shy away from big topics and has a knack for packaging them into addictive, effervescent, 70s-inspired hyperpop songs. The greatest example of this is track one, "The Ball." Written as a response to the Partygate scandal, where at a time of loss and terror and loneliness in the face of a pandemic, the Tory government decided to ignore it all and have a party as the rest of the UK population wasn’t allowed to be in the same room as their loved ones. We hear them demanding to know “How do you sleep at night?”, “How do you justify it?” and “When will you make it make sense?” against their signature upbeat synth lines and groovy bass.

Of the song, Nick Tompkins (guitar and vocals) says: “By the time the demo had gestated and released, we’d just had Truss’s catastrophic budget crashing the pound, so the life cycle of this song is evidence of the staying power of Tory sleaze. A fun tune, though, no?” Though it tackles a tough subject, it is, ironically, a song I would play at a party. It incites the need to dance and sing a long deep within whether it’s the first time you’ve heard it or the hundredth.

From this incredible opening, Youth Sector does not waver. ‘Benign Fire in a Small Room’ switches things up by being a slower, more melancholy offering that still manages to pack a punch and command your attention. It’s about those times when you’re not doing so well and everyone else seems to notice it before you do: “And you will laugh / At me when / I confess there’s a mess”. It perfectly reflects that feeling of being the last one to know something so plainly obvious and now you’re stuck, not doing so well, as the world continues on as normal around you.

Things get kicked back up a notch with "A Definitive Guide to Easy Living," which takes on anti-homeless architecture. Tompkins explains that “this tune was written from the tongue-in-cheek perspective of someone who proudly designs cities in a way that keeps homeless people out and ironically gets paid handsomely for it.” What I appreciate most about Youth Sector is their ability to take on serious topics, and couple them with bright, catchy music that doesn’t undermine the subject matter. It’s not music that makes you feel bad about not being aware, but instead, you take notice and feel like you have the power to change things.

"Free Parking" was the last single to be released before the EP came out and what a way to make you want more. It’s almost math-y with a chaotic, unpredictable structure that leaves you eager to find out where it’s heading next. In lyricism, it’s reminiscent of Britpop and this surge in indie music that takes mundanity and presents an unserious, almost silly perspective on it: “These plastic people's plastic permits only work in the week / How can they meet their plastic pals if they can't park on the cheap?” and “We'll split the petrol money / Are you happy?”

The ending of Quarrels, "Won’t Stop the Wheel," is the only unheard single and I’m unsure how they kept this one under wraps. They harness the power of gang vocals (a particular weakness of mine) and begin with a stripped-back sneak peek of the chorus. They’ve made juxtaposition in song form, injecting a jaunty groove into lyrics that describe the hopelessness life can sometimes have: “Life, it’s just a hill / And we are all / Just rolling down” and “Make a silly face as a distraction / To those too dumb to grasp that / Impact is at the end of the tracks” that beg to be sung back by a full crowd.

This is an EP that cements Youth Sector as a band everyone needs to be paying attention to. As we all grapple with life and everything that comes with it, serious or mundane, Youth Sector is along for the ride with us.

To support the band, you can purchase the EP on transparent red vinyl. Youth Sector can also be found at Twitter, Instagram, and their website. Quarrels can be streamed wherever you listen to music.


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