Doesn’t the album title ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ sound totally fucked up? Like that scene from that movie The Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage were he freaks out about bees (on an unrelated note, he also dresses in a bear and punches a woman in the face). Doesn’t ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ sound like the sort of thing a serial killer unveils to his victims right before he disembowels them with moth balls or something? It’s certainly a departure in tone from Youth Lagoon aka Trevor Powers debut offer ‘The Year of Hibernation’.
But what is an album name anyway? Atoms For Peace’s album is called ‘AMOK’, and The Drones most recent album is called ‘I See Seaweed’, and both are brilliantly deceptive artworks. Even The Cure released the incredibly misleading ‘Pornography’ which featured approximately 0 boobs. Just goes to show you can’t judge an album by it’s title. However, whereas ‘The Year of Hibernation’ showed Youth Lagoon kind of seethe and waft in temperamental tones of justified hypnotism and tranquility, ‘Wondorous Bughouse’ progresses to a more upbeat (if you can call it that) and experimental tone.
There’s plenty of odd, shifting moments in the album. Opening track ‘Through Mind and Back’ is more James Blake being silently sacrificed than Youth Lagoon-ish, and ‘The Bath’ is literally a washed out, spray painted wallowing of sound, noisy pedalled effects haphazardly splashed everywhere. ‘Daisyphobia‘ is anything but phobic, a freewheeling gallon of flowers being poured into an unsuspecting noise vacuum, shunted through piano, effected, slanted chiming and whirring, warped in every sense of the word. But then there are songs made of exuberance and nothing else. ‘Third Dystopia’, ‘Raspberry Cane’, and ‘Attic Doctor‘ all indulge in Trevor Power’s voice and his ability to compress and extend it like the world’s most fucked up slinky, shoving it through and past enough carnivale atmosphere that the World Fair takes a step back and says ‘Woah man, that shit’s fucked up.’ ‘Dropla‘ creates the most ‘Year of Hibernation’-esque sounds, and it is also the best track on the album by far. Not because it sounds like the Youth Lagoon of old, but because it’s the most focused, and calmly executed. It’s Youth Lagoon in it’s element.
Overall, Youth Lagoon have released a mixed bag sort of album. It tries very hard, and at points succeeds to a degree, but it never fully understands itself, or even knows what it wants to present. It touches on psychedelic, but unlike it predecessor, ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ fails to give off that calming effect of brilliance. It’s okay, but a step-down in performance and atmospheric composure, the balanced fortitude of calming waves of sliced sound that the predecessor promised. In this case, it’s more a cataclysm of oozing slugs, gnarled spiders and pudgy worms making up the orchestra of weird sounds in the wondrous house of bugs.