Damn, that energy is incredible. It took me a while to really get into Young Mammals (formerly known as The Dimes, before some punk-ass bunch of Oregonians threatened ’em over the name), but after finally getting to see them full-force at the Houston Press Awards showcase, rocking and sweating and twitching in front of a beaming, exuberant, beyond-capacity crowd, I’m absolutely, completely hooked.
And like I said, it’s largely the energy — whatever they’re doing, whatever song they’re playing, the Young Mammals crew throw off this frantic, nervous, endearingly edgy vibe that makes the music sound utterly fucking urgent, like the band’s lives depend on them playing what they’re playing at that exact second. The only indie bands I can think of that channel that kind of urgency are The sadly-departed Anniversary and maybe (maybe) fellow “A”-band The Arcade Fire. Very few other bands come close, although singer/guitarist Carlos Sanchez’s spoken-shouted vocals also bring to mind icons Talking Heads, The Pixies, & Modest Mouse, all of whom own their own brand of important-but-you-don’t-know-why energy.
Plus, the songs themselves are fucking beautiful, with Sanchez and fellow guitarist Cley Miller’s heart-rendingly pretty (yet off-kilter), Jim Wilbur of Superchunk-esque guitar lines all weaving in and out of one another, drummer Iram Guerrero’s fierce, propulsive drumming forcing things along, and bassist Jose Sanchez rumbling along beneath and anchoring the whole mess. The song structures come off as simple and basic, but when you listen more closely you start picking out more complex, interlocking pieces that throw the whole “simple pop song” thing utterly on its head. Young Mammals’ music is like some crazy, intricately-fitted machine that looks like it really shouldn’t work the way it does but ends up working perfectly.
I should note, by the way, that drummer Iram has got to be one of the best drummers I’ve ever, ever, ever had the good fortune to witness, either live or on record. His drumming’s hard as hell yet still fluid, pushing the music forward inexorably like a barely-controlled steam locomotive barreling down the tracks. Sadly, he’s leaving (left?) the band as of the fall of 2008, which makes me worry for the survival of the Young Mammals’ sound. They’re going to have a damned difficult time filling his shoes…
I’ll keep my fingers crossed, though. These guys may be relative kids (they’re all just out of high school, from what I understand), but they’ve somehow tapped into a sound that’s both familiar and totally unlike what anybody else out there (esp. in Houston) is doing right now. If they lived in Brooklyn or Omaha, I swear to God you’d already know Young Mammals from CMJ & Pitchfork & Stereogum & what-have-you. Yes, they’re that good. Hell, they’re better; they could wipe the floor with a host of overhyped, flash-in-the-pan Tapes n Tapes clones and barely break a sweat.
There’s not a whole heck of a lot out at the moment, unfortunately. I’ve got a hold of a copy of the band’s awesome, awesome four-song EP as Young Mammals, courtesy of Cley, who somewhat disparaged the disc as “our old stuff” when he handed it to me, gratis; I’ve got my fingers crossed that that means the band’s working on new stuff, but with Iram gone & YMs needing a new drummer, that might not happen real soon. I’ve also seen/heard about an earlier EP, by the by (the one with a camel on it that I’ve seen referred to as “the animal EP”), back when they went under the Dimes moniker, but I’ve never been able to get a hold of an actual copy.
And then there’s the ultra-super-limited edition Grey Ghost release they did in 2007, but your only hope of finding one of those is to whack some über-hip indie scenester and then show up early at the posthumous record collection sale to get your blood-soaked fingers on their well-loved copy. (Or you could check out the band’s Myspace page; up to you.)
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