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Anxiety and Influence: Youth Code


For those who have been paying attention the last year or so, it's really no surprise that YOUTH CODE is everywhere all of a sudden. First of all, let's face it, their label Dais has a way with press and a knack for finding seriously amazing artists. Their records are beautiful, people care about their bands ----now there's something no one ever talks about: is having people CARE about your band the same as selling thousands?--a later rant, perhaps----. Second, Youth Code is raw, dirty, punk, and seriously sounds like they couldn't give a f***. And, at least for some people, that's exactly what good art is: an explosion of emotions with absolutely not a single iota of posteuring.


But although I think the above is a good characterization of the band's so-far small output, it must be admitted that this is also what everyone else (Pitchfork, Cvlt Nation, The Fader) is saying. And there's a whole other world out there of industrial-EBM people who are wondering just how in the heck an EBM band with no history and relatively small backing could be picked up by so many world-respected blogs. Sure, one could say it's all about connections, knowing the right people, etc., but I think that takes away from the stunning originality of what LA's newest sensation brings to the game.


A lot of anxious criticism has been spilled on forums about whether or not this is yet another example of the big press ignoring the industrial scene while cherry-picking a new darling. Chants of "as long as they're from LA" intermingle with the latest incarnation of "stop making oontz and maybe someone will care." I think the truth is a bit more subtle than that, and I think it's a question of influence. I'm not talking about something so simple as what bands you like, but rather what bands you bring to the table. No matter what's next on your crazy Spotify free-jazz mix, if the only thing on your mind while making music is Front 242, then you're going to sound exactly like Front 242, and likely (most) people will find that boring.

On the other hand, if you come out swinging with all your influences on your sleeve, in your blood, and tumbling out of your nose and ears, you've got at least the beginnings of the magic it takes to make great art.

"We’re from hardcore and metal, and it’s good to see people being able to do things with a tough feel to it." - YOUTH CODE

When you read those Pitchfork articles, instead of being baffled or indignant, do what I do and click on the writer's name. That will take you to a page where you see everything else that writer has written. There won't be many or even any other industrial reviews. Rather a rich, complex and interesting mish-mash of all kinds of stuff appears as you scroll down the page. The point is that the writers, too, bring their influences to every listen and every word. It's not "Pitchfork" picking up on the newest flavour of the month; it's an individual writer who is engaged with an entire array of influence. And I'd like to think anyway that that sort of attracts other influence, is able to recognize other influence, and at the most basic and non-pretentious level is simply interested in other influence. Only then do we get something as magic as Youth Code.

"I want everything that I’m a part of musically to be as devastating as the Breakdown in “Strength Beyond Strength” by Pantera or “Firestorm” by Earth Crisis." - YOUTH CODE

And influence isn't only about what is on deck. It's also where you've been, what scenes you've participated in, how insular (or not) you are as a participant in culture. People asked me after Legend's stellar performance at Terminus earlier this summer just how someone like front-man Krummi could perform as he did. My answer has been to show this YouTube video of him playing with his other band in front of a bazillion people at Reading. It's not a particularly great video, but it shows something that is crucial: it shows an artist in a completely different setting, building something like genuine influence through curiousity and timidity.

And that's why Youth Code is the force they appear to be. It's raw and real, but it's also full of influences from Pantera to punk rock, Psychic TV to Skinny Puppy. It's good art because it's anxious about its influences, not because it's sure of them.